NBA Playoffs 2011: Boston Celtics Sweep New York Knicks with Luck
The scores in the first two games were 87-85 in Game 1 and 96-93 in Game 2. Ray Allen was the hero in Game 1, sinking a three-pointer with 12 seconds left while Kevin Garnett was the hero in Game 2, contributing the go ahead bucket with 14 seconds left.
Both games featured Boston's Big Three (Allen, Garnett and Paul Pierce) squaring off against their New York state of mind counterparts in Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire and Chauncey Billups.
The series gradually got less intriguing as it progressed, featuring blowouts in Games 3 and 4 and Boston posting its first playoff sweep since last century (1992 Pacers). If you had to place your finger on one reason why it was closer than it should have been just look at the shamrocks on the Celtics' logo.
For Boston, the series had them trading the grittiness and savvy from last year for luck this year. After Billups went down in Game 2 and Stoudemire left with back spasms, Carmelo contributed a Herculean effort alongside the left-behinds of the Knicks, ending in the Celtics clinging to a three-point win.
Games 3 and 4 didn't require any late game heroics on the part of anyone on the Celtics as they were facing a Knicks team with two of their own big three sidelined by injuries. The box scores don't have a column for luck, but if they did I can guarantee it would have been a plus for the Celtics and a minus for the Knicks.
Will the Celtics make it to the NBA Finals?
Clearly the Celtics are a good team at their core, but how in the world do you manage to win the first two games in the closing seconds against the Knicks? The Knicks! This is the same team that was caught up in the soap opera that was Carmelo's "will he/won't he" routine.
Also (stop me if you've heard this one) the team that hasn't appeared in the playoffs since 2004. It may have been general ennui on the part of the Celtics, but they can't expect to have the same mentality in the next round.
The Celtics' next most likely opponent will be the revamped Miami Heat. There's no way that the Celtics can keep their hand ready to flip the switch against that team, especially in light of their recent coalescing and improved play from Mario Chalmers. The switch just needs to be on.
LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are simply too much for the Celtics to handle. The same goes for the Eastern Conference Finals, most likely against the Bulls. Derrick Rose has been playing out of his mind this year and has been a more effective facilitator than even Rondo at times.
Granted, stranger things have happened and the Celtics could face the Hawks or Magic, assuming one of them knock off the Bulls. A Celtics-Hawks matchup in the Eastern Conference Finals certainly wouldn't be sexy from an audience standpoint, but it would be more promising for the Celtics than a Celtics-Bulls matchup.
This would be another instance where the Celtics dominate more through luck, considering it would take a great twist of that leprechaun magic for them to both beat the Heat and have the Hawks or Magic beat the Bulls.
The Celtics can enjoy knowing that they're advancing to the next round. They can also enjoy that sweeping feeling. They can even enjoy knowing that Shaq may actually make an appearance in the playoffs, hopefully for more than five minutes of playing time.
What they can't enjoy is Carmelo and a cast of bench players taking them to the brink in Game 2. The Celtics are used to being perceived as shaky contenders. They were in a similar position last year and, in all fairness to them, they managed to make it all the way to the Finals.
These Celtics are a year older, though, and if what's happening in San Antonio, Dallas and LA is any indication we may be seeing the changing of the guard so to speak. It could be time for the Heat or Bulls to knock off the Celtics and establish their dominance as young contenders. It wouldn't be the first time Boston comes face to face with a revolution.
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