Friday, April 21
7:00 PM ET
Playoff Game #3, Road Game #1
TV: ESPN, CSN-NE, MSG
Madison Square Garden
Referees: Dan Crawford, Marc Davis, Gary Zielinski
For the first time in 7 years, the Knicks will host a playoff game at Madison Square Garden. They come into the game down 2-0 after 2 games that both were decided in the last seconds. The Celtics weren't feeling very good about their 2-0 record after playing poorly in both games. At the same time, the Knicks were feeling pretty good about almost winning both games on the road. The Celtics will be facing what is sure to be a loud and very hostile crowd in MSG and probably some hostile officiating on the road as well. The Celtics have got to bring a better effort than we saw in games 1 and 2 if they hope to get a win on the road.
Amar's Stoudemire, who missed the second half of game 2 with back spasms, didn't practice on Thursday but did participate in the team's shoot around and is expected to play in this game. Chauncey Billups had his sore knee drained also didn't participate in practice and is listed as questionable for this one. If he can't go, expect Toney Douglas to once again get the start. Ronny Turiaf is also dealing with soreness in his knee but is expected to play. Shaquille O'Neal traveled with the team to NY but is expected to miss this game. He may play on Sunday, but then again, he may not.
In the first game, Stoudemire starred for the Knicks with 28 points and 11 rebounds while Anthony struggled somewhat. In the second game, with Billups out and Stoudemire going out in the first half, Carmelo Anthony was outstanding with 42 points and 17 rebounds, practically carrying the team all by himself. Paul Pierce has said that he has to be better defensively on Anthony to prevent another performance like that in this game. For the Celtics, in game 1, Ray Allen stepped up with 24 points and 6 rebounds. In game 2, we finally saw the aggressive Rondo once again as he scored 30 points and dished out 7 assists.
The Celtics can expect the Knicks to come out swinging and if they don't put forth a better effort, they might not be so lucky to pull this one out at the end. The Celtics bench, although with more talent than the Knicks bench, has been out played in the first 2 games. The Celtics must get more from Big Baby, Jeff Green and Delonte especially. In both games, the starters have built a lead only to have it disappear when the starters go out for a rest. The bench must produce more in this game.
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We know that the Celtics can play much better. The Knicks also can improve if they can get a good game from both of their stars on the same night. The Celtics have to improve their defense and their execution throughout the game and not just at the end. If the Celtics finally play a complete game, instead of turning it on and off throughout the game, they should get a win without the need for last second heroics.
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PG: Rajon Rondo..................................................SG Ray Allen
C: Jermaine O'Neal
SF: Paul Pierce ................................. ............PF Kevin Garnett
Shaquille O'Neal (calf, Achilles, Age ) out
PG: Toney Douglas ......................................................SF: Landry Fields
C: Ronny Turiaf
SF: Carmelo Anthony .................................................. PF: Amar'e Stoudemire
Amar'e Stoudemire (back) probable
Chauncey Billups (knee) questionable
Ronny Turiaf (knee) probable
Rajon Rondo vs Toney Douglas
Douglas is expected to start again, but it is possible that Billups could try to play as well. Regardless of the opponent, Rajon Rondo is a key to the Celtics fortunes. When he is aggressive and assertive in running the team, the Celtics play so much better. As Rondo goes, so go the Celtics. They need him to play well.
Paul Pierce vs Carmelo Anthony
Pierce has said that he plans to play much better defense on Anthony in this game to avoid another explosion from him. Of course, if Pierce is expending large amounts of energy on defense, Ray, KG, JO and Rondo will need to step up on offense.
Kevin Garnett vs Amar'e Stoudemire
Stoudemire is expected to play in this game but may not be 100%. If he is the least bit hesitant, KG must take advantage and look for his shot.
Keys to the Game
REBOUND REBOUND REBOUND!!!! - The Celtics allowed the Knicks to pull down 20 offensive rebounds in game 2, which gave them 24 points on second chance baskets. The Celtics had just 6 second chance points. The Knicks pulled down 53 rebounds to just 37 for the Celtics. The Celtics must box out and every player must make an effort to crash the boards.
Bench Play - The Celtics bench has played very poorly in both games. In game 2, the Knicks bench had a 46-23 advantage over the Celtics bench in scoring and a 21-11 advantage in rebounds. Big Baby, Jeff Green and Delonte especially must step up and play better on both ends of the court for the Celtics to have a chance in this game. They have the talent, they just have to focus and execute.
Ball Movement - In the first two games, at times they moved the ball and made the extra pass and found the open man, and at other times, the ball stuck and they took quick shots and the offense got stagnant. They must make an effort to keep the ball moving and play unselfish ball. When they do that for 48 minutes, they are very tough to beat. They also need to be aggressive in going to the basket and not settle for jumpers.
Effort and Focus - The Celtics need to bring an extra effort along with total focus on the game. Rebounding can be a sign of the amount of effort a team puts in. It takes effort to go to the ball and fight for the rebounds. They also have to put out the effort to get the 50-50 balls and go after every loose ball. The Knicks will be putting the effort out since to them, this is a must win. The Celtics have to match that effort.
Dan Crawford has been a referee in the NBA since the 1984-85 season. Prior to the NBA, Crawford officiated in high school for 12 years, 8 years at the collegiate level (MVC and CCAC) and 4 years in the CBA. He has officiated 1,600+ regular season games, 190+ play-off games and 18 NBA Finals games. After one of the games in Chicago in round 1 in 2008, there was some controversy when he was seen leaving the arena with his family all decked out in Chicago Bulls gear. He's been in the news lately because he has been accused of having a bias against Marc Cuban because the Mavs are 2-16 in games officiated by Crawford. The Celtics are 5-1 this season and are 7-3 over their last 10 game with Crawford officiating. The loss this season was the last Miami game in which the Heat shot 10 more free throws than the Celtics, but then again the Celtics did not play well in that game. The Knicks are 4-3 this season and 5-5 in their last 10 games with Crawford. Crawford is a homer ref with a home team W/L record of 52-20.
Davis has officiated over 460+ regular season games and 7 playoff games. When not officiating, Davis is a motivational speaker who speaks to sales forces on topics including goal setting, team building, the mechanics of presentation. Davis was investigated for threatening to whoop Allen Iverson's a** when AI complained about a call in a game in 2005, but was not suspended for it. The Celtics are 3-0 this season and are 7-3 in their last 10 games with Davis officiating. The last win was the Hornets game where the officiating was terrible all the way around. They let both teams play but ignored the Hornets trying to intentionally foul two times in a row at the end. The Knicks are 3-1 this season and 5-5 in their last 10 games with Davis on the court. He also tends to go for the home team with a home W/L record of 41-29.
Zielinski has officiated over 285+ regular season games. This is his first season officiating in the playoffs. He worked 6 years in the CBA and 4 seasons in the WNBA before coming to the NBA. He officiated the WNBA finals from 1998-2001. The Celtics are 5-0 in games called by Zielinski this season. In one of those wins, the Clippers had a 20 free throw advantage over the Celtics and the officiating was terrible all the way around. The Celtics are 9-1 in their last 10 games with Zielinski on the court while the Knicks are 3-0 this season and 7-3 in their last 10. He is another ref that favors the home team with a home W/L record of 41-24.
Alternate - David Guthrie
Guthrie began his career as a referee in the NBA in the 2005-2006 season. He has been a college, CBA and NBDL referee and he has also officiated the 2003 and 2004 NCAA Men’s Division I tournament. This is Guthrie's first season on the playoff roster. The Celtics are 4-1 this season with Guthrie calling the game including 2 Bulls games. In the first, an OT win, the Celtics took 25 free throws to 18 for the Bulls. In the final meeting with the Bulls, the Celtics took 10 more FT than the Bulls but did not play well and lost. The Celtics are 6-4 in their last 10 with Guthrie as a ref. The Knicks are 2-3 this season and 6-4 in their last 10 with Guthrie calling the game. His home W/L record is 38-24.
(Just to make you feel a little better, the Lakers and Hornets have the evil duo of Joey Crawford and Bennett Salvatore)
Officiating and Hostile Crowd
As we have seen many times already in these playoffs, the officials can make a difference in the outcome. So far the Celtics have gotten decent treatment from the refs, but they also have been at home. Officials will often be swayed by the crowd so the Celtics need to be ready for that and not allow bad calls to take them out of the game. They also need to be ready for a very hostile crowd and not allow that to affect their play.