How many times have we seen this the last couple games of the Boston/New York series: The Celtics set their defense and for the first 15-17 seconds of the clock the clog everything the Knicks want to do. Their on-ball defenders are in the Knicks faces, their defensive rotations are sharp, there are no good looks.
Then it falls apart and the Knicks get a quality shot. Part of that is the Knicks have a lot of talent on the floor — Carmelo Anthony can score on anyone, he has 96 points in three games this series — and part of it is as the series has moved on New York has moved the ball better and better.
But in the end the Celtics not being able to keep the effort level and execution together for a full 24 seconds, or for a full 48 minutes, is the key reason the Knicks are up 3-0. Most people (myself included) predicted the Knicks would win the series, they are the better team, but we expected more of a fight to the finish from Boston.
Sunday will the Celtics finally put it all together for one game? Can they show some real pride and salvage one game in this series on their home court?
Can they? Yes. Will they? I’m not sold.
The Knicks have motivation for this game — rest. Round two likely will not start until next weekend so a win Sunday means a week off for the older bodies in blue. That matters.
New York will be without J.R. Smith, suspended by the league for his elbow to the head Jason Terry in Game 3. You’d think that be an advantage for the Celtics and in Game 3 after Smith went out the Celtics make some pushes. But the Knicks answered each one of them.
The Knicks have also played strong defense through this series, frustrating a Celtics offense missing Rajon Rondo’s creativity. The Celtics would need a massive night from Jeff Green and Paul Pierce on the offensive end to get that win. Boston would need 48 minutes of defense. It would need a strong outing from Jason Terry. And Brandon Bass.
It can happen. For stretches this series the Celtics have been able to do everything they needed to challenge the Celtics and get a win.
But they haven’t been able to sustain it. And if they don’t on Sunday at the Garden they can hop a plane to Mexico for vacation on Monday.
Apparently, all it takes is a little public discussion of LeBron James‘ “broken” jump shot to get him back on balance and knocking down the three ball — he was 4-of-6 from deep Wednesday.
Then again J.R. Smith was 7-of-13, Kyrie Irving 4-of-5, and as a team the Cavaliers knocked down a record 25 threes — while shooting 55.6 percent — as they wiped the floor with the Hawks in Game 2.
In case you’re curious where the Cavs were hitting from, here’s the team’s shot chart.
The Houston Rockets aren’t in any rush to hire a new head coach, preferring to interview a wide range of candidates to find the right one. Jeff Van Gundy has been widely believed to be at the top of their list, now that Tom Thibodeau and Scott Brooks are off the market, but ESPN.com’s Marc Stein is reporting another name that has entered the mix: Mike D’Antoni, who last held a head coaching job from 2012 to 2014 with the Lakers and currently serves as the Sixers’ lead assistant.
The Pacers, meanwhile, haven’t made a final decision on Frank Vogel’s future with the team, but all signs seem to point to him getting let go in the next few days. And if that happens, Stein reports that Vogel will also be on Houston’s list of candidates.
Given the Rockets’ massive drop-off on the defensive end this season, Vogel would seem to be a better fit than D’Antoni. But it sounds like the Rockets aren’t close to finding a replacement for J.B. Bickerstaff, although it would make sense to have a new coach in place by next month’s draft.
On Monday, the Hawks played the Cavaliers close and even led in the fourth quarter, leading plenty of optimism that Game 2 would be equally competitive, that the Hawks had something to build on.
The Cavs dominated from the start on Wednesday, with a 123-98 final score that was far closer than the game actually was — the Cavs led 74-36 at the half and led by as much as 38 at one point in the second half.
The Cavs also hit 25 three-pointers, which is the all-time record for a single game — regular season or playoffs. J.R. Smith hit seven of them, along with four each from LeBron James and Kyrie Irving and three for Kevin Love.
18 of Cleveland’s threes came in the first half, also a playoff record, and this was all Atlanta could do:
That’s the kind of night it was for the Hawks, who now trail 2-0 in the series as it heads back to Atlanta.
LeBron James has always been an incredible passer. In the midst of the Cavs’ Game 2 beatdown of the Hawks, he zipped this one-handed beauty into the paint to Kyrie Irving, who kicked it out to Kevin Love for a corner three:
The three was just one of the 18 Cleveland hit in the first half, which set an NBA playoff record.