The New York Knicks assembled their own big three before the NBA trade deadline earlier this year, and after working through some minor struggles, landed in the playoffs against the Boston Celtics. Now they're facing a 1-0 series deficit after losing Game 1, 87-85.
New York had an opportunity to tie or take the lead with several seconds remaining, but instead of taking the ball inside or passing to a teammate, Carmelo Anthony heaved a contested three-pointer that bricked the rim, and the Knicks lost the game.
That type of late-game decision-making is not becoming of championship contenders. It's really not even becoming of playoff teams, in general. If the Knicks are going to make a series out of this tonight, Melo' and co. have to keep the intensity at a high level, and sharpen their focus when crunch-time comes.
Why the Knicks Will Win
Carmelo Anthony will actually show up and not force the issue if the game is close again. Amar'e Stoudemire is going to bring it. Sure, he shoots jumpers here and there, but only Kevin Garnett has a realistic shot of keeping up with his versatile game, so there's not too much concern over whether or not he can play up to his normal level. He'll be fine.
No Chauncey Billups tonight (expected) has to hurt. Toney Douglas can really stroke the three ball and he can defend, but he's not a natural point guard and Rajon Rondo will feast on him defensively all night if he can. The Knicks have to take that advantage away from the Celtics, and the scoring weight needs to be spread out more to other shooters, as well.
Who wins tonight's game?
New York is extremely talented and drive at this point, so we know they'll make it close. Now they just have to seal the deal when it matters most, something Anthony was unable to do in Game 1.
Why the Celtics Will Win
Because they're the Boston Celtics, and this is what they do. They can play tired, sluggish, uninspired basketball for 46 minutes, but if they're still in the game with under two minutes remaining, you might be in some serious trouble.
New York likes to get running and they like to shoot jumpers, while Boston loves to play suffocating defense for as long as it's physically tolerable. For Boston, every game and every series is about concentration. If they can keep their heads cool and play their brand of basketball, they won't lose this series. But it all starts at home, where the Celtics need to keep it going to take a 2-0 edge going into New York.
I don't think it's the passing of the torch or the tide turning, but I do think the Knicks make this a series, starting tonight. Carmelo Anthony will reflect on the game tape from game one and realize he has to be more aggressive, while the rest of the Knicks' role players will go into game two knowing to expect passes to come their way.
It will be close again, but the Knicks are good enough to push Boston hard.
Knicks 106, Celtics 102.
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