The Boston Celtics played exactly the way they would’ve wanted to – limiting the pace and speed and playing a low scoring game against a high octane offensive team. However, they ended up beating themselves because of their inefficiencies in other facets of the game like the offensive glass, turnovers, and lack of bench production.
Celtics Limited Knicks:
The Celtics held the New York Knicks to just 85 points and 40.5 percent shooting on Saturday afternoon. Both of those totals are well below their season averages. The Knicks also had a true shooting percentage of just 49 percent, close to six percentage points off their season average. And even though Carmelo Anthony scored 36 points, he did it on 29 shots. They forced the Knicks to rely on Carmelo too much and become a little predictable. In other words, the Celtics did their job on the defensive end of the floor.
So where did the Celtics falter?
Mistakes by Celtics Gave More Opportunities For Knicks:
The Knicks had ten offensive rebounds compared to the Celtics four. Kenyon Martin had five of those offensive boards. The Celtics also turned the ball over 20 times compared to the Knicks’ 13. This essentially resulted into more offensive opportunities for the Knicks, who were especially solid beyond the arc, hitting 36 percent of their threes in the game. The Knicks had 14 more field goal attempts than the Celtics. Despite shooting poorer than the Celtics in terms of field goal percentage, the fact that they had more opportunities resulted them in having more overall points, which is all that matters at the end of the day.
No Bench and Old Legs Stick Out Like Sore Thumb for Boston:
The Celtics only had eight points in the entire fourth quarter. This could be attributed to the team’s fatigue and age. The Celtics and Knicks are both aging teams that need support from the bench throughout any given game so that their stars stay rested for the end of the game.
The difference between the two teams came in terms of bench points. The Knicks had 33 points off the bench and received huge minutes from J.R. Smith, Jason Kidd, and Kenyon Martin. Meanwhile, the Celtics bench scored four points on 0-7 shooting and was a -18 in the game. Nobody on the Celtics bench logged more than 21 minutes, meaning that older guys like Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce were forced to play over 36 minutes each. Jeff Green also played a game high 46 minutes and his fatigue was noticeable in the fourth when he turned the ball over four times.
Hope for Boston?
Despite the loss, Boston has to be happy that they at least controlled the defensive side of the ball. Holding New York to 85 points is no easy task. In fact, the Knicks scored 85 points or less just six times this season and they lost every game. So give credit to their defense, which has been highly criticized throughout the past several years for not rising to the occasion. It should be noted that the 78 points the Knicks allowed was the third lowest total of the season, so seeing another strong defensive performance by New York will be surprising. If the Celtics can contain the Knicks like they did today and play a cleaner brand of basketball, they will see more favorable results later on in the series.