In Game 3 of their first-round series, the New York Knicks defeated the Boston Celtics 90-76. Carmelo Anthony led all scorers with 26 points, and Jeff Green led Boston with 21 points, nine rebounds and four assists.
The question is: What went wrong for the Celtics as they fell apart against the Knicks for the third consecutive game?
During Game 3, the Celtics shot 40 percent from the field and 31.6 percent from beyond the arc. They also committed 17 turnovers and turned 11 offensive rebounds into failed second-chance scoring opportunities.
That bodes poorly against a Knicks team that shot 50 percent from the field and made 11 three-pointers on 40.7 percent shooting from beyond the arc.
This was the third consecutive game in which the Celtics failed to score at least 80 points. They're currently averaging 75.0 points per game for the series and 14.7 points per fourth quarter.
It all ties back to the lack of a true point guard during their run through the 2013 NBA playoffs.
Lack of Ball Movement
On Jan. 27, 2013, the Celtics received news that point guard Rajon Rondo would be out for the rest of the season with a torn ACL. In the coming weeks, however, the Celtics won 16 of their next 22 games.
They proceeded to close out their season by going 7-13, and it hasn't gotten much better in the playoffs.
The Celtics have been horrendous on offense, mainly due to the fact that they lack a true point guard. Avery Bradley is a top-tier perimeter defender, but his facilitating skills are beyond underdeveloped.
That's exactly why they're averaging 15.3 assists per game during the postseason. By comparison, Rondo averaged 11.9 assists during the 2012 NBA playoffs.
Without the ability to move the ball to open players, the Celtics have fallen into isolation sets on a consistent basis. Not only has this resulted in low-percentage looks, but it has Boston averaging less than 80 points per game.
As the ball stops, the Celtics become predictable, and the Knicks have been able to smother them defensively.
Where Are the Shooters?
The Celtics entered this season with the reputation as a team which possessed one of the deepest perimeters in the NBA. Even after Rondo went down, they had experienced shooters who could step in and contribute.
Where have those shooters gone during the postseason?
The loss of Leandro Barbosa was devastating, as he served as a ball-handler and an explosive transition scorer with postseason experience and a lethal outside shot. Boston traded him after he went down with a season-ending knee injury.
Jordan Crawford just hasn't been the dynamic scorer that Boston expected him to be. He has also taken minutes away from Courtney Lee, thus eliminating his defensive capabilities and three-point-shooting skills. Even still, that's not the true issue at hand.
That falls in the lap of Jason Terry.
Terry has seen an unheralded decline from 2012 to 2013, going from a Sixth Man of the Year candidate to an inconsistent player in every phase of the game. Although he managed to step up in Game 3, he also ended Boston's momentum by attempting a pass between Steve Novak's legs.
Novak picked it off.
The tandem of center Kevin Garnett and small forward Paul Pierce will one day make it into the Hall of Fame. They're two of the greatest players of their generation, and they own an NBA championship ring to prove it.
Pierce and Garnett are more than capable of thriving alongside Rondo, even at their current ages. KG will lock down his assignment and knock down mid-range jump shots if the facilitator gives him the ball in the proper locations.
Rondo did just that, and Garnett shined. Now, Garnett is being forced to create his own shot.
Pierce stepped in as a secondary ball-handler and facilitator. When Rondo hit him in stride, Pierce was also able to attack off the dribble or thrive as a catch-and-shoot marksman.
Without Rondo, however, Pierce and Garnett are being forced into the role of the lead producers.
Pierce can lead the Celtics in scoring, but that comes by way of his ability to play versatile offense. When forced into on-ball sets every time down, Pierce's declining athleticism prevents him from performing at his highest level.
Without Rondo, it's been all downhill for the Celtics. They are now staring at a likely insurmountable 3-0 series deficit.