Welcome to the playoffs, everybody! If Game One is able to tell us anything, this should be one hell of a legendary basketball series. Despite the heartbreaking Ray Allen dagger, we’ll be staying positive here because there’s so much to be optimistic about. Hit the jump for a (totally not mental) breakdown.
After picking up two fouls in 1:28, Carmelo Anthony and the bench grew hot and heavy during the entire first quarter. No need to fear, however, Bill Walker was there! The former Celtic was huge off the bench, showing serious aggressiveness and confidence. He peppered in a three pointer to go along with a couple baskets at the rim, and actually lead the team in scoring early, with seven points. On the defensive end, New York looked great from the opening tip, forcing several 24 second shot clock violations and keeping Rajon Rondo in check with the transition game (he only had two assists in the first half). This might sound simple, but when the Knicks knock down their shots they’re able to disrobe their poor defense reputation and really lock Boston down in the half court. And knock down their shots they did when Carmelo re-entered the game during the second quarter. After trailing by a single point after one, Anthony energized the offense and pushed the Knicks lead to eight. Facing the Celtics bench—in particular Jeff Green—Melo looked like a man amongst boys, draining threes, pulling up in the midrange, and attacking the basket all with an unpredictable flair that’s borderline unstoppable.
By halftime the Knicks had opened up a 51-39 lead, stunning the home crowd. They shot 54% from the field to Boston’s 41% and were 5-8 from downtown. Three players were in double figures for the game: Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire were two of them. As the third quarter got underway Boston made an inevitable push, picking up their intensity and really forcing the issue on defense, which lead to Celtic points in transition. With 7:40 left in the third, Chauncey Billups was 2-7 and taking some atrocious shots, and by the end of the period Carmelo had made a single shot (he finished 1-9). Anthony wasn’t getting to the line either and he finished with just four attempts in the entire game. The Knicks were 5-26 from the floor in the third quarter and that simply won’t do for a team that can’t consistently stop people on the other end.
When the fourth quarter began the Knicks held a 64-59 lead, but with a questionable Stoudemire, Douglas, Walker, Jeffries, Carter lineup on the court, the Celtics took advantage, tying the ball game on a Delonte West jumper with 9:28 left. From there on out, the game was a boxing match featuring a left hook/uppercut combo by the name of Amar’e Stoudemire. With Carmelo’s jumper going cold, Amar’e scored the team’s first eight points of the fourth. He snuck a dunk in between the arms of Kevin Garnett and Jermaine O’Neal on one play and had a 180 acrobatic lay up on another. There was no stopping him. So with the score tied at 82-82, THE Toney Douglas drained a step back three in Ray Allen’s face to give the Knicks a three-point lead. Their response? Giving up an immediate Kevin Garnett alley-oop on a side out of bounds play cutting the lead to one and taking no time off the clock. An offensive foul by Anthony on the next possession gave Boston the ball back, trailing one with 21 seconds left…cue the Ray Allen dagger three ball from the wing. With no time-outs, the Knicks had about 11 seconds to tie the game and settled on a contested 30 footer by Carmelo. Of course, he came up short, and that was that.
* Trying to stay with the theme of optimism, Ronny Turiaf totally exceeded expectations. With Boston’s front line a tad depleted, Turiaf scored nine points on 4-5 shooting in 30 minutes. He also contributed some pretty solid defense on Kevin Garnett, who went 5-14.
* Landry Fields was an utterly invisible 0-3 with 0 points—the only Knick not to score who saw floor time.
* Chauncey Billups knee is a concern; he left after landing awkwardly with under a minute to play and didn’t return. Hopefully we’ll have more about it tomorrow.
* The Knicks playoff rotation, so far, was interesting. Anthony Carter and Shawne Williams played a combined 22 minutes, Jared Jeffries had nine huge rebounds but still looked like an awkward giraffe who never grew into his body, and Shelden Williams didn’t see the court. All in all there was much positive to take away, and you’ve got to like their chances if Anthony and Stoudemire can get it humming at the same time.