2011 NBA Playoffs: Boston Celtics Defeat New York Knicks

deleteth accounethCorrespondent IIIApril 17, 2011

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 17:  Ray Allen #20 of the Boston Celtics shoots the game winning shot in the final seconds of the game against the New York Knicks in Game One of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs on April 17, 2011 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. The Boston Celtics defeated the New York Knicks 87-85. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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On Sunday, the Boston Celtics defeated the New York Knicks 87-85 to take a 1-0 series lead in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.

After spending hours cursing at my television while simultaneously brainstorming a list of Herculean epithets for Jermaine O'Neal (any suggestions?) I've settled down enough to share my notes for the game.


Rajon Rondo Needs to Perform Better

Rajon Rondo was one rebound and one assist away from a triple double, but don't let the numbers fool you. He didn't play very well at all (more so in the first half).

Rondo didn't push the ball in transition to his full capacity. Instead of attacking the basket and creating opportunities for his teammates on the break, he regularly pulled up his assault of the basket, even when the Celtics had favorable numbers and mismatches.

It's become pretty clear: teams are going to give Rajon Rondo open shots. Tonight, we saw Rondo pass up open layups to give his teammates long jumpers. 

Unselfishness is one thing, but Rondo's performance tonight went well beyond that. Instead of taking the opportunity to score the basketball and set the pace of the game, Rondo was content to command a stagnant offense for much of the night.

Teams are going to keep gambling off Rondo all playoffs long, and he needs to take advantage. He needs to score, and he needs to score in the paint and at the free throw line.

Rondo did rebound the ball very well, and he committed only one turnover in 43 minutes of play. 

But as Rondo goes, so go the Celtics. He'll need to be better down the stretch for the C's.


Jermaine O'Neal Is More than Capable of Playing Effective Basketball

Without question, Jermaine O'Neal was the X-factor in tonight's game. He played, without any sense of overstatement, brilliantly.

In 23 minutes of play, JO was a perfect 6-6 from the field, finishing with 12 points, four rebounds (three on the offensive glass) and four blocks.

After the game, Celtics beat writer A. Sherrod Blakely quoted Doc Rivers on Twitter as saying: "We won the game because of Jermaine O'Neal. And he did it in both halves."

I couldn't agree more. After a whirlwind regular season in which he played just 24 games due to injury, JO delivered the finest performance of his Celtics career to date.

As recent as two or three weeks ago, there were doubts as to what Jermaine O'Neal's role would even be in the playoffs. But JO looked vintage tonight, delivering a stellar performance in all phases of the game.

If the Celtics consistently get this type of performance from O'Neal in the playoffs, they'll be hard to beat even without Shaq.


Celtics Need to Score in the Paint

The Celtics' offense was putrid in the first half. They turned into a strictly jump-shooting team, scoring just 10 points in the paint.

While they weren't perfect in the second half, they were much better. 24 of their 34 points in the paint came in the second half, during which the Celtics outscored the Knicks 48-34 en route to a two-point victory.

The Celtics can't settle for jump shots and halfhearted offensive possessions, especially against an offensively explosive team like New York. To keep the Knicks from scoring in transition and getting easy buckets, the Celtics need to wear them down in the paint.


The Bench Was a Non-Factor

You know that New York Knicks team, the one without a bench? Well, they outscored the Celtics' bench 23-8.

Boston's reserves were awful for most of the game. Delonte West had just two points on 1-2 shooting in 12 minutes. Jeff Green scored four points on 2-4 shooting in 17 minutes. Glen Davis had just two points on 1-8 shooting in 25 minutes.

As the playoffs continue and the rotation stays eight or nine men deep, the Celtics' bench is going to have more and more time to get comfortable with each other. Hopefully, they figure it out as a unit sooner rather than later.


Ray Allen Needs to Get the Ball More

Ray Allen had just four points on three shots in the first half. Apparently, Doc Rivers made it a point of emphasis to change that, because Ray exploded for 20 points on 7-12 shooting in the second portion of the game, including the game-winning three.

The Celtics' offense is at its best when it is balanced and everyone is involved. However, as Allen operates primarily as a spot-up shooter and depends heavily on screens to get open looks, he's often the first guy left out when the team struggles to execute.

Simply put, Allen is one of the best shooters ever, and the floor opens up for everyone else when he is scoring and getting an adequate volume of shots.


Other Notes

Seems to me that the defense isn't the problem for the Celtics. Sure, they struggled in the first half, but they ended up holding one of the better offensive teams in the NBA to 85 points and 42.3 percent from the field.

The Celtics are missing Kendrick Perkins and his screen-setting abilities much more on the offensive end than the defensive end. If they start to execute consistently on offense, they're going to be hard to stop.

Carmelo scored only 15 points on 5-18 shooting, contributing only four rebounds on a night where the Celtics were a +10 on the glass, and turning the ball over five times.

Danilo, anyone?

Next game is in Boston, Tuesday, February 19 at 7:00 PM ET.


Dan is a Boston Celtics featured columnist. Follow him on twitter @dantheman_06.