It looked like the Knicks were going to give the Celtics a run for their money after the first and second games of the series were so close, but the Knicks didn’t have the same energy in New York that they did in Boston, and the Celtics were able to sweep the Knicks out of the playoffs on Sunday.
On offense, the Celtics were able to succeed because Rajon Rondo looks like Rajon Rondo again. Rondo didn’t look quite right offensively in the last part of the regular season. He averaged 11.2 points per game on 40.3% shooting in April’s regular-season games, and he was even worse in March.
Against the Knicks, Rondo looked dominant, averaging 19 points on 50% shooting and 12 assists per game for the series. When Rondo doesn’t have his game working, the Celtics are forced to rely on isolation play and contested jumpers for much of their offense. When he’s on, they become a team that attacks the rim and punishes defenses with open catch-and-shoot jumpers. On Sunday, Rondo was feeling it. He got to the basket at will, actually managed to hit four jumpers, and set his teammates up with open mid-range jumpers, threes, and shots at the rim. Assuming the Heat win one of their next three games and face the Celtics in the second round, Rondo’s performance will be key, especially since he struggled offensively against the Heat all season long.
Boston’s supporting is still a concern, as Jeff Green and Delonte West still aren’t contributing and Shaq still isn’t healthy, but if their four best players are all doing their jobs, they’re a nightmare matchup for anybody.
Defensively, the Celtics were able to hold Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire to go a combined 15-44 from the floor. While the free throw line kept Anthony from having a completely inefficient night, Stoudemire and his injured back looked two steps slow, and Kevin Garnett completely dominated him on both ends of the floor.
With Anthony forced to be a volume shooter, Amar’e shut down, and Billups in a suit, the Knicks needed their supporting cast to step up. The results were gruesome and predictable. Outside of a few out-of-nowhere jumpers from Anthony Carter, the Knicks’ supporting cast had nothing for the Celtics, and shot a combined 15-44 from the field — exactly what Carmelo and Amar’e shot. Toney Douglas, Bill Walker, and Shawne Williams couldn’t find the rim with a map, and Jared Jeffries and Landry Fields were both complete non-factors.
If the Knicks’ big three can develop some chemistry over training camp and the beginning of next season and stay healthy, the Knicks have a lot to look forward to, even with their anemic supporting cast. If they actually manage to make some upgrades and Landry Fields can re-find his game in the off-season, they could be a force to be reckoned with in the East. But in 2011, the Knicks simply didn’t have any answers for the Celtics’ blend of defense, experience, chemistry, and talent.