Knicks vs. Celtics: Top Storylines to Watch Heading into Game 2
The No. 7 seed Celtics had matched the Knicks (who had home-court advantage for this game) for all of the game up until the fourth quarter, where they were held to just eight points and allowed the Knicks' offense to pull away and earn a seven-point victory.
Several big talking points were to be found in the game and several big questions are being asked heading into Game 2, which will be played on Tuesday. Read on to see the biggest storylines to watch heading into Game 2 as the Celtics seek to level the series back at one game apiece.
Should Boston Continue With Paul Pierce in the Post?
Already without star guard Rajon Rondo, Boston employed a slightly unusual tactic of playing Paul Pierce in the post at shooting guard, with mixed results to be found from the positional change.
Pierce was able to dominate Iman Shumpert due to his size, and was able to get to the line often. Moreover, he finished the night with 21 points and seven assists, and was arguably the sole reason Boston kept pace with New York early in this one.
However, those 21 points came on a staggering 15 shots, and Pierce wasn't able to hone in with the accuracy or precision that Boston needed on the night.
Granted he was being asked to do a lot, particularly with their bench struggles, but even still, it wasn't a great shooting night for the Celtics' star, and Doc Rivers will no doubt have an interesting question ahead of him as to how he should utilize Pierce in Game 2.
Especially if Carmelo Anthony is going to keep his hot streak going.
Can Jeff Green Stop Carmelo Anthony?
Once again, Carmelo Anthony started red-hot for the New York Knicks and once again, he was the difference in his team's gritty and close-fought victory.
Anthony made his first four shots and scored 10 of New York's first 12 points—setting the tone for another dominant performance that would see him finish with a game-high 36 points. Not that we would expect anything less from the league's leading scorer this year.
The performances of Anthony have the Knicks primed to make a strong challenge in the East this year, but his strong showing here won't have completely disheartened Boston, who saw Jeff Green achieve some success against the Knicks' star.
Green did a great job of shutting down Anthony once he got hot, but couldn't match up with him in terms of scoring (36-26). If Green can shut down Anthony in Game 2, the Celtics definitely will have a chance at leveling the series at one-all.
If not, it could well be further success for New York in the postseason.
Will Boston's Bench Step up in Game 2?
However, the biggest storyline to come out of the game was that of the Celtics' bench, whose poor performances cost Boston the win in this one.
Held to just 25 points in the second half (and just eight points in the final quarter), the Celtics' bench combined for zero field goals, zero assists, zero offensive boards, one steal and one block—totaling just four points from the charity stripe on the night.
By comparison, the Knicks bench scored 33 points.
Jason Terry was a huge culprit for the Celtics' bench failures, with the guard going 0-for-5 from the field, including missing all four of his open three-point attempts in this one.
Simply put, without an improvement from their bench, Boston cannot beat the Knicks. New York is deep and talented and has the skill to hurt Boston, but the Celtics can match it with them when their best players are on the court—leaving the fringe players to be the real difference-makers.
Kenyon Martin and J.R. Smith were the difference for the Knicks in Game 1; can the Celtics' bench step up and take control of their game next week?
We'll soon find out.
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