Knicks Fall to Celtics 96-93; Trail Series 0-2
The New York Knicks came into tonight’s Game 2 looking to tie the series at 1. The Knicks could not close out the Celtics in Game 1, and they lost point guard Chauncey Billups in the process. With Billups out due to injury, the Knicks had to rely on young point guard Toney Douglas to fill the void. The Knicks could have gone back to Madison Square Garden tied at one with a win, but a loss would have put them in a 0-2 hole.
Neither the Celtics nor the Knicks started the game particularly well, and both teams failed to convert on easy looks. The Knicks were trying to get Landry Fields involved in the game early, and it was clear Mike D’Antoni wanted his team to play in transition. The Knicks defense was impeccable early on, and they forced the Celtics to miss their first seven shots from the field. However, the Knicks were unable to convert on their own attempts and they could not take advantage of the Celtics inauspicious start. At the 7:00 mark of the first quarter, the Knicks held a mere one point lead, 8-7.
The Celtics made it a priority to exploit the mismatch between Rajon Rondo and Toney Douglas. Rondo attacked Douglas whenever he could, and Douglas was eventually taken out of the game due to two personal fouls. Although the Knicks limited the Celtics to 2-10 to begin the game, Rondo galvanized his team with energy and effort. Momentum had shifted the Celtics way and the majority of their points came on fast-breaks or in the paint. At this point of the game, the Knicks’ effort was completely absent and the Celtics were dominating New York on both ends of the court.
However, just when it seemed as though the Celtics would extend the lead to double-digits and put the Knicks away, New York went on an 8-0 to end the quarter. The Knicks headed to the bench down only 23-21; Carmelo Anthony led the team with nine early points and seven rebounds.
The Knicks’ defense in the second quarter was flawless, and they were forcing the Celtics to take tough, contested shots. The Knicks were thwarting the Celtics from penetrating to the basket, and after a Shawne Williams three, the Knicks took a 26-24 lead. Although Amar’e Stoudemire could not find his shot on offense, New York’s role players stepped up and they provided instant offense off the bench. With the reserves performing the way they were, Carmelo Anthony was able to preserve his energy on the bench and prepare himself for a grueling finish of the half. Jeff Green and Glen Davis, the Celtics’ key contributors off the bench, could not penetrate the Knicks’ defense and they were unable to stop New York’s run. At the 6:13 mark of the second quarter, the Knicks took a three point lead after an Anthony three, 35-32.
In the latter stages of the second quarter, the Knicks began to misfire on their shots while the Celtics continued to strive in the fast-break. Furthermore, staring point guard Toney Douglas committed his third foul on Rajon Rondo and was quickly taken out of the game. With Chauncey Billups already out of the game due to injury, the Knicks were about to lose their other point guard as a result of fouls. In addition to Douglas’ troubles, captain Amar’e Stoudemire left the game in the second quarter due to back spasms. His status for return was uncertain at the time, and the team had to battle for the rest of the half without a true big man.
Heading into the locker-room, the Knicks lead the Celtics by one, 45-44; Carmelo Anthony was the team’s leading scorer with 16 points. Despite a close match-up with the Celtics, the team was more worried about the injury to Amar’e Stoudemire. The second half was going to be grueling, and the Knicks needed Stoudemire to carry them to victory.
Prior to the start of the second half, the Knick got word that Amar’e Stoudemire would likely not return to the game, news that the coaching staff did not want to hear. As for the players on the court, they struggled to begin the second half and they could not hit their shots. The Celtics amped up their defensive intensity and the Knicks were unable to work within their offensive system. Boston forced the Knicks to play isolation basketball and this resulted in ill-advised shots by New York. At the 6:55 mark of the third quarter, the Knicks found themselves down 56-51.
As the quarter progressed, the Knicks began to hit their shots and started to move the ball on offense. New York began to digress from isolation plays and they made it a priority to attack the basket and make their way to the free-throw line. After two makes from Toney Douglas at the line, the Knicks cut the deficit to one, 62-61.
However, once the Knicks returned to their old style of play they began to rely on isolation shots and forced up ill-advised attempts. Momentum had shifted the Celtics way, and Boston eventually opened up a double-digit lead, 74-63.
The Knicks ended the quarter on a high note, and they walked off the court on a 4-0 run. Heading into the final 12 minutes of the game, New York found itself trailing 74-67.
Carmelo Anthony brought the Knicks back into the game with his offensive prowess and ability to get to the free throw line. The team was struggling to knock down shots, but Anthony was the only player who was able to break down the Celtics’ defense. Although the other four players on the court could not find success on the offensive end of the court, they were playing stellar defense on Boston. At the 8:48 mark of the final quarter, the Knicks found themselves down by just two 74-76.
The Knicks and Celtics continued to battle it out and both teams were trading buckets in the latter half of the fourth quarter. At first, Anthony was the only player who found an offensive groove, but Toney Douglas and Roger Mason came up huge for the Knicks with their three point shooting. After a Mason bucket from downtown and a Kevin Garnett score, the teams were knotted up at 84 with 5:52 left in the game.
Carmelo Anthony put on a show late in the game, and he was hitting shots from every spot on the court. However, with 48 seconds left in the game the Knicks were down 92-91, and they were in dire need of another bucket.
Although the Knicks led by a point with 19 seconds left in the game, the Celtics scored on the very next possession to recapture the lead. The Knicks had a chance to win on the final play of the game, but the Celtics forced New York to commit a turnover. Garnett poked the ball away from Jeffries, and he called a time-out before he was wrapped up. Celtics guard Delonte West sealed the game at the free-throws and the Celtics walked off the court with a 96-93 victory.
The Knicks now trail the series 0-2 despite 42 points and 17 rebounds by Carmelo Anthony. Game 3 will be held at Madison Square Garden on Friday on ESPN.
Featured Image courtesy of MSG.com