This is why the Celtics are the conference champs until somebody beats them.
Sure, the team hasn’t looked quite right since it traded away Kendrick Perkins for Jeff Green, and their bench is still a complete mess.
Yes, the Celtics gave up the No. 2 seed in the East by finishing their regular season in something of a tailspin.
And yes, the Celtics needed some final-possession heroics in each of their first two playoff games against the Knicks.
But as long as the Celtics are capable of winning close games and putting on performances like the one they put on in Game 3 on Friday night, they are a team that should be feared.
The 113-96 dismantling of the Knicks in Madison Square Garden was a blueprint for how the Celtics want to play basketball. The team’s offense is built around good shooting and great ball movement, and they had both of those working on Friday. Thirty-one of the team’s 42 baskets were assisted, with Rajon Rondo accounting for 20 of those assists. The Celtics also made 14 of 24 three-point attempts, with Ray Allen and Paul Pierce accounting for all the makes. All four of the fantastic four did what they’re capable of doing; Rondo penetrated and made pinpoint pass after pinpoint pass, Allen punished the Knicks from long range, Pierce made shots from all over the floor, and Kevin Garnett was a monster on defense and on the glass. When the Celtics play like this, they’re nearly impossible to beat.
As for the Knicks, they never really had a chance. Amare Stoudemire had a big effort in Game 1, and Carmelo Anthony had a big night in Game 2. The Knicks would have needed both of them to play well in order to have a chance in Game 3.
Anthony was forced into low-percentage looks all game long, and Stoudemire looked a step slow while playing through some back spasms. While the Knicks bench managed to play surprisingly well and outscored the Celtics’ subs 52-13, the Knicks had no chance with the Celtics offense rolling and both Anthony and Stoudemire playing poorly.
The Knicks are likely heading toward four-and-done, which is a shame considering how close the first two games of this series were and how the team has given New York fans something to believe in all year long. Still, you only get so many chances to pull off an upset over a team as good as Boston, and the Knicks appear to have blown theirs already.
Hopefully, the Knicks can get one playoff win in front of their home-court fans before the season ends; if not, they have a lot to look forward to next season.