The blueprint for Boston to get back into this series is there — they have won the first half of Games 1 and 2. Tenacious defense, getting points out of Jeff Green and/or Jason Terry to go with Paul Pierce, and to make the little hustle plays.
The Celtics have had two problems. First, they haven’t come close to sustaining that when the Knicks play their best — 25 points for Boston in the second half of Game 1, 23 in Game 2. Second, the Knicks are the better, deeper team.
But if there is one thing that can give the Celtics the lift they need it’s a return to TD Garden — especially on an emotional night, the Celtics first home game since the Boston Marathon tragedy.
Boston was dramatically better at home than on the road this season — 27-13 in Boston, 14-27 on the road. They outscored opponents by 4.6 points per game at home, lost by 4.9 on the road. The key reason was their defense — Boston allowed 95.9 points per 100 possessions at home, 104.9 on the road. (Stats via NBA.com)
Boston is not likely to come apart for 24 minutes at home, in front of their crowd, like they did in Madison Square Garden.
The Knicks are going to have to earn this one.
Of course, the Knicks are still the better team and have a couple things to fall back on.
One is more Raymond Felton in the pick-and-roll (ideally with better play out of Tyson Chandler). His speed and the way he attacks puts the Celtics defense more on its heels — when Carmelo Anthony is in isolation or Pablo Prigioni is running the offense at a more leisurely pace, Boston’s defense can slow the Knicks. But Felton has been more of the disruptive force.
Second, there is Carmelo Anthony. He’s put up big numbers but taken a lot of shots to get there in the first couple games. He remains the best player in this series and if he can take over a game the Knicks can get the win.
New York needs to win one of the two games in Boston this weekend. Make it the first one and their path gets much, much easier.