After dominating in the first two games of the Eastern Conference’s first playoff series, the New York Knicks will now travel to TD Bank North, to take on the Boston Celtics for game three on the road (Friday 8pm ET).
For the Knicks, starting the series off with a 2-0 lead has not come as much of a surprise. After surging in the middle of the season behind the efforts of Carmelo Anthony who averaged 28.7 PPG and was named the league’s scoring champion and Sixth Man of the Year, JR Smith, the Knicks won the Atlantic Division over the Celtics for the first time since 1994. They finished the season by winning 16 of their final 18 games.
As the East’s #2 seed, the Knicks were listed as 7.5 point favorites to take game one. Falling just under the spread, the Knicks won the game by seven after a dominating second half and 36-point performance from Anthony. In game two, the Knicks won by 16, besting the 6.5 point spread they were favored to win by.
In game three, the first of which will be played in Boston, the line has been set at -3 points, this time in favor of the hometown Celtics. The over/under is 183.5.
Is Age Catching Up to the Celtics?
When the 2013 NBA season began, Boston’s “Big Three” had been dismantled. While Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett chose to stay in Boston, Ray Allen, sharpshooter extraordinaire, chose to join another Big Three, this time as a member of the defending champion, Miami Heat.
With Allen gone, the Celtics were left with just two aging superstars in the 35-year-old Pierce and 36-year-old Garnett, to lead the team.
While it was quite obvious the star in Boston was fading, the Celtics were still to remain a contender as they had youth in Avery Bradley and Rajon Rondo, who was emerging as an MVP hopeful.
But then Rondo got injured early and the season for Boston wasn’t really the same.
Expected to miss the entirety of the NBA Playoffs, Rondo’s absence has really hurt the Celtics, especially against the stronger, quicker and younger Knicks team.
In fact, in the past two games, as the Celtics seemed to all but disappear offensively in the second half, it seems evident that this team and its players is getting tired. It has been a long season and for Pierce and Garnett, they aren’t as young as they used to be. It is hard to compete with a younger team and its 28-year-old superstar who just seems to be entering his prime.
And if the Celtics can’t manage to play four good quarters of basketball, with consistency on offense and strong performances on defense, even playing on their home turf in Boston won’t be able to help them stave off the Knicks and playoff elimination.
Carmelo Anthony: A Man on a Mission
After Miami’s Lebron James hoisted the NBA Championship trophy last year, the first of his otherwise illustrious career, Anthony earned a distinction.
Now that James had a ring, the torch was passed to the man affectionately nicknamed ‘Melo’ as he was now the best player in the NBA without a championship.
And just like James seemed to make it his life’s mission to win the title, Anthony too, wants to rid the proverbial monkey off of his back. If his 2013 season numbers are of any indication, Anthony is giving everything he has to bringing a title to New York.
Since first acquiring Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire in the midst of the 2010-11 season, the Knicks have underachieved and underperformed. They were expected to be able to contend with Boston in the Atlantic Division and Miami and the Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference. As it turned out however, the Knicks languished in mediocrity, reaching the playoffs but never able to advance out of the first round.
But this year, if Anthony has anything to say about it, the result is going to be different.
With Stoudemire injured, Anthony took charge and was really able to flourish. He averaged 37 minutes and 28.7 points a game, en route to his first ever scoring title. He also averaged 6.9 rebounds, 38 percent from the three-point range and 83 percent from the free throw line.
So far in the postseason, Anthony has been even better. He is averaging 40 minutes and has converted on three of his five three point attempts (60%). He is shooting 94 percent from the free throw line and is averaging 35 points after two games.
And although the Knicks have gotten off to anemically slow starts in both games, Melo has been the one to bring them back in the second half. Of course it hasn’t hurt that head coach Mike Woodson is incredible at making adjustments and that Anthony is aided by the league’s best bench player in Smith, but overall it has been Anthony that has led this team.
Final Pick: Can the Celtics Steal One at Home?
The Knicks have come out flat in both games but the Celtics have been unable to take advantage of it as they have faltered after halftime, managing a total of just 48 points combined in both games. Their defense has been solid, holding the Knicks and their 11th best offense to an average of just 86 points a game, which is 14 lower than their season average
It is the Celtics’ own offense however that has been the cause of their struggles. No longer considered elite in this category, Boston averaged just 96.5 points a game in the regular season, good enough for 18th in the NBA. In the playoffs however, that number is over 20 points worse as the Celtics have averaged just 74.5 points in the two games.
However, the Celtics are 27-13 at home this season, including statement wins against the Heat, Denver Nuggets, LA Lakers and Atlanta Hawks, all playoff teams.
In a game likely to be decided in OT and the spread just at three, take the Celtics to pull this one out in front of the home crowd. Also, take the under on 183.5 as both teams have top defenses and will keep this contest low scoring.