After seven long seasons the Knicks hosted a playoff game at Madison Square Garden. The fans were amped up to support their beloved team and the hostile atmosphere was indescribable. The Knicks came into the game down 0-2 in the series, and they were looking to use the crowd’s energy to take home Game 3. The Boston Celtics beat the Knicks twice in the regular season at the Garden, but environment of tonight’s game was something the Celtics never experienced. New York City had missed seeing the Knicks compete in the post-season, and tonight the city dwellers saw their long awaited dream come to a reality.
Despite a late appearance of Amar’e Stoudemire, the Knicks were relieved to find out there star forward was inserted back into the starting lineup. However, point guard Chauncey Billups was not suited up for the game and he was left as a spectator on the bench.
The Knicks started the game slow and there were not able to hit any of their shots. The team was clearly excited after an amazing introduction ceremony, but they could not remain calm once the game tipped-off. The Celtics have always been a veteran team, and they knew how to react to a hostile crowd. Boston forced the Knicks to commit turnovers and they made it a priority to attack on the fast-break.
The Knicks scored their first backset at the 8:35 mark of the first quarter after a Landry Fields jumper, but the team still faced a 9-2 deficit. The Celtics were clearly the more active team, and it seemed as though they were more prepared for the Game 3 than the Knicks. New York began to game shooting 2-10 from the field, and momentum had shifted the Celtics way. After a four-point play by Paul Pierce, the Celtics opened up an early 16-5 advantage.
The Celtics’ defense in the opening period was impeccable and they forced the Knicks to take tough, contest shots. The Garden crowd was taken out of the game, and the Knicks could not find a way to dissect Boston’s defense.
However, the Knicks ended the first quarter on a high note and they cut the deficit to seven after going on a 15-5 run. More importantly, the Knicks forced Celtics’ leader Paul Pierce to commit two early fouls, thus limiting his minutes in the second quarter.
After trailing by 17 points at one point of the period, the Knicks headed to the bench down only 27-20. Anthony led the team with six points, followed by Shawne Williams with five points. Albeit the Garden crowd was non-existent for the majority of the first, the energy and enthusiasm returned after the Knicks went on their run.
Mike D’Antoni decided to start the second quarter with Carmelo Anthony on the bench, which left the injured Amar’e Stoudemire as the center of the team’s offense. Although the Knicks struggled without Anthony in Games 1 and 2, the role players in tonight’s game provided the team with immediate energy and offense off the bench. Players like Bill Walker and Shawne Williams were having their way with the Celtics’ defense, and their ability to hit the outside shot was a boon for the team. At the 8:01 mark of the second quarter, the Knicks cut the Celtics’ lead to five, 34-29.
The Knicks remained in striking distance for the majority of the second, but the Celtics had an answer for every bucket New York scored. Ray Allen was hitting his shots, and the Knicks were not able to contest any of his jumpers. On the other hand, Carmelo Anthony once again carried the Knicks when they needed it most. Just when the Celtics opened up a ten point lead mid-way into the quarter, Anthony provided the team with much-needed buckets. At the 5:08 mark of the second, the Knicks found themselves trailing by five points, 40-35.
As the period progressed, the Knicks became carless with the basketball, and their communication on defense was horrible. The Celtics were getting anywhere they wanted and they did not see any defense trying to impede their penetration. Rajon Rondo was the catalyst to his team’s run and he was able to find his teammates for open looks in the paint or behind the three-point line.
At the end of the first half the Knicks were trailing 52-44. The team began the game struggling offensively, but they ended the half shooting 43% from the field. Anthony was the team’s leading scorer with 12 points, followed by Shawne Williams with ten.
The Knicks started the second half missing shots and allowing the Celtics to shot wide-open looks. The Knicks were stagnant on offense, and there was no ball movement within the system. As for the Celtics, they started the quarter hot and Pierce and Allen were hitting their three point shots. There were no Knick defenders contesting the Celtics’ shooter, and this poor defense allowed Boston to open up a 63-50 lead with 8:36 in the third.
The Knicks were not playing with the same energy or focus they played with in the first two games and the Garden crowd began to “boo” its team due to the poor play. The Celtics were dominating the Knicks on both ends of the court, and momentum had completed shifted their way. It was clear the Knicks were frustrated in the third, and they could not connect on any of their shot attempts. The Celtics kept on attacking the Knicks, and they were getting the majority of their points on the fast break or in the paint. At the 3:28 mark of the third period, the Celtics opened up a 21 point lead, 77-56.
After a debacle third quarter, the Knicks found themselves trailing by 23 points, 86-63. The Knicks were completely outplayed in the third and they were outscored 34-19 by the Celtics. At that point of the game, the Knicks needed a miracle to avoid a 0-3 series hole.
The Knicks played well in the fourth quarter, but they dug themselves too big of a hole to climb out of. The role players provided the team with instant energy, and they were able to score in transition and in the paint. However, just when the Knicks put together a run Paul Pierce responded with a three of his own. With 8:44 left in the game, the Knicks were still facing a 91-72 deficit and time was quickly running out.
Roger Mason Jr. provided the team with great three-point shooting which galvanized the rest of the players, but the Celtics once again answered back with their own run. The Knicks were facing a 106-84 deficit with 3:45 left in the game, and the Garden crowd began to leave their seats and head toward the exits.
After seven seasons without making it to the Playoffs, the Knicks fans were excited to be back, but the Knicks players were not. The Celtics were more amped up to play at Madison Square Garden than the Knickerbockers were, and when the final buzzer rang Boston was ahead, 113-96.
The Celtics’ leading scorers were Paul Pierce with 38 points and Ray Allen with 32 points. Boston had a dominant second half and it never trailed once in the game.
The Knicks now face a 0-3 series deficit, and Game 4 will be held at Madison Square Garden on Sunday. No team in NBA history has ever come back from a 0-3 deficit, and the Knicks will have to make history in order to beat Boston. However, if New York plays like it played today, the Celtics will surely sweep the series.