As was the case with the fourth quarter in Game 1, the New York Knicks dominated the third quarter of Game 2. They once again shut down the Boston Celtics in the second half on their way to a 87-71 win.
A 21-4 run to open the third completely hobbled the Celtics, who once again held a lead at halftime. The final margin in the third frame was 32-11 in favor of the Knicks, granting them a 15-point advantage entering the final quarter.
Games 1 and 2 were prime examples of the Celtics missing Rajon Rondo on the floor. In Saturday's loss, the Celtics were unable to take care of the ball without a real point guard on the roster.
On Tuesday night, the Celtics didn't turn the ball over in excess, but they couldn't come up with quality offensive possessions at the level of the Knicks. When New York's shots are falling, particularly from three-point land, Boston will have difficulties keeping up.
The Knicks wound up just 7-of-19 from beyond the arc tonight, but they held the Celtics to 37.1 percent shooting overall.
Rondo provided the Celtics an advantage in that he could handle the ball and get any teammate a shot they were comfortable with on virtually every possession. Now they are left creating mostly for themselves or trying to force too much in transition.
New York's defense in the second half was the story of the game, holding the Celtics to just 23 points after the main intermission. Boston didn't register a field goal in the final 9:15 and scored only two points in the last eight minutes.
The Celtics' surge at the outset of the fourth quarter was managed professionally by the deadly shooting accuracy of Carmelo Anthony. The Knicks star calmly drained three straight jumpers to keep pushing the lead back into double digits.
When he is playing at this level offensively, Anthony can hit any open shot he likes. He finished with 34 points, including 10-of-11 shooting from the free-throw line. He has now scored 70 points in the first two games combined.
Newly named Sixth Man of the Year J.R. Smith greeted the MSG crowd with a flurry of jumpers in the first half, as well as some hot dance moves. Smith finished with 19 points off the bench.
Raymond Felton provided some creative moves around the hoop en route to 16 points. That was pretty much it on the offensive end for New York. It didn't need a whole lot more given how incredible its defense played in the second half.
The Celtics viewed a great Kenyon Martin performance with quite a bit of regret, as they had the opportunity to bring in the veteran power forward earlier this season. Martin really showed Boston what it missed out on, going for four blocks and 11 rebounds in 23 tough defensive minutes.
The lone attempt at a comeback for Boston started in the fourth quarter with a couple buckets by Jordan Crawford. He was able to get off a bunch of good looks against Steve Novak.
The Celtics, now down 2-0 in the series, will return home for Game 3 on Friday having not been able to score 80 points in either of the first two games. They are hurt, but not out, as their veteran stars have been in this position before.
Paul Pierce managed 18 points, six assists and six rebounds, while Kevin Garnett posted a double-double of 12 points and 11 rebounds. However, both were hampered by foul trouble and got little help from their teammates.
To get back into this series, the Celtics will have to figure out a way to score in the second half at the same level they have in the first halves of each game.
Otherwise, the Knicks will keep right on cruising into the second round.