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Rajon Rondo isn't a stranger to criticism. The fifth-year guard from Kentucky has received criticism from his general manager [Danny Ainge], his head coach [Doc Rivers] and countless analysts across the league. Mike D'Antoni evidently couldn't avoid getting involved in the mix, as he offered up this little nugget before Game 4 on Sunday.
"He's a very good player. I'd like to see him play in Minnesota and see how he does."
Everyone if certainly entitled to their own way of thinking, so instead of firing back at D'Antoni, Rondo took the high road. Paul Pierce did too.
"I'm not answering that," Pierce said. "Next question." Rondo offered, "Everyone has an opinion."
It's seems rather childish of D'Antoni to be talking trash about Rondo, especially when your team was just swept out of the first round of the playoffs by his. Not only that, but Rondo lit up the floor in all four games, averaging 19 points and 12 assists. Rondo had 30 points in Game 2 and a franchise playoff record 20 assists in Game 3.
Needing just one more win to complete a four-game sweep over the New York Knicks on Sunday afternoon, the Celtics raced out to a 23-point lead, sweated out a spirited Knicks comeback and held fast, finishing off New York with a 101-89 win, advancing to the Eastern Conference semifinals against the winner of the Miami/Philadelphia series, currently led 3-1 by the Heat.
Kevin Garnett led the C's with 26 points on 10-of-16 shooting and 10 rebounds, while Rajon Rondo continued his stellar play with 21 points (8-of-12 from the field), 12 assists and five rebounds. The Celts shot 49 percent and opened up a 17-point halftime lead that they would extend to as many as 23 in the third quarter. Glen Davis chipped in 14 points on 6-of-8 from the floor in by far his best game of the series, helping to make up for a couple of off days for Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, who combined for 27 points but shot just 10-of-31 from the floor.
The Knicks got a top-shelf performance from Carmelo Anthony, who scored 32 points and grabbed nine rebounds, but didn't get much help elsewhere. Amare Stoudemire, questionable right up to game time thanks to his sore back, struggled his way to 19 ponts on just 5-of-20 shooting. Stoudemire gutted out 44 minutes and did grab 12 rebounds, but was clearly not himself, missing nine of 10 first half shots. Reserve guard Anthony Carter sparked the Knicks near comeback in the third and fourth quarters, scoring 11 points to go with five rebounds and four assists along with a couple pretty defensive plays. The Knicks held the Celts without a field goal for more than seven monutes between the third and the fourth. But Pierce's runner and a jumper by Rondo out of a time out with just under seven minutes left pushed the Celts lead to eight after the Knicks had cut it to four, and the home team wouldn't get any closer.
The Celts, who swept their first series since a 3-0 triumph in a first-round, best-of-five against Indiana in 1992, will now have a week off, with Game 1 of their East semis scheduled for next Sunday. The Heat and Sixers will resume their series on Wednesday night in Miami.
Three down, one to go.
Such is the state of things for the Celtics, who can close out the Knicks with a clean sweep in their Eastern Conference first round series Sunday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. EDT, on ABC. After a couple of close calls in the first two games at TD Garden, the Celts invaded Madison Square Garden for Game 3 on Friday night and played like the championship caliber juggernaut we've come to know and love over the past four years, blowing out the Knicks, who were booed off the court by their own fans, 113-96.
Paul Pierce and Ray Allen were absolutely unconscious in the Game 3 win, combining for 70 points and connecting on 14-of-19 from 3-point range. But the true force behind the Celts dominating performance was Rajon Rondo, who exploded for a eye-popping triple-double, totaling 15 points, 11 rebounds and 20 assists.
The C's were also huge on the defensive end on Friday night, holding Knicks star Carmelo Anthony, who almost single-handedly won Game 2 with 42 points and 17 rebounds, to just 15 points on 4-of-16 shooting. The Knicks, who averaged 105 points per game during the regular season, were held under 100 for the third straight game and shot just 43.4 percent from the floor, with reserve Shawne Williams as their leading scorer with 17 points. Needless to say, the Celts will take that sort of scenario, especially if it involves the Knicks other star, Amare Stoudemire, finishing with a deadly quiet seven points and three rebounds thanks to a cranky back that was injured in Game 2. Stoudemire will be a game-time decision for Sunday's matchup.
One area that continues to be a issue for the Celts is that of the bench. Boston didn't need to worry about the lack of production from its second unit on Friday thanks to Pierce, Allen and Rondo. But the non-contributions from guys like Glen Davis, Jeff Green and Delonte West (averaging just under 12 points combined in the first three games) must be remedied if the C's are to continue to last in the playoffs. Davis in particular has to step up his game. The offense seems to stop dead in its tracks when he gets the ball lately, and he's settling too often for jumpers instead of using his considerable size and quickness to create easier shots.
Once again on Sunday, the Celts will be without Shaquille O'Neal. Whether this series continues after Game 4 or the Celtics advance, Shaq's availability going forward still remains to be seen.
In basketball, the outcome often comes down to two simple factors: who scores more points and who wants it more. Doc Rivers and the Celtics had both areas covered on Friday night, delivering a 113-96 blow to the New York Knicks in Game 3 to give them a commanding 3-0 series lead. The game plan? Doc and company just kept it simple.
"We got stops and then offensively we kept the game simple," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "I thought it was one of our best jobs setting picks, maybe this year."
That simplicity allowed Paul Pierce to go off for 38 points, Ray Allen to put up 32 points and Rajon Rondo to record yet another triple double, finishing with 15 points, 20 assists and 11 rebounds in the blowout win.
Pierce and company will look to finish off the Knicks in Game 4 on Sunday night, which would mark the first time the Celtics have swept an opponent out of the playoffs since 1992 when they eliminated the Indiana Pacers in three games.
Paul Pierce and Ray Allen took center stage at Madison Square Garden, scoring 38 points and 32 points respectively as the Boston Celtics clobbered the New York Knicks, 113-96, in Game 3 on Friday night in New York City.
Boston took a commanding 3-0 series lead with the victory, and will attempt to finish out the sweep on Sunday at Madison Square Garden.
Rajon Rondo finished with a triple double, amassing 15 points, 20 assists and 11 rebounds for Boston, which shot 50.6 percent from the field. Kevin Garnett had nine points and 12 rebounds and Jeff Green scored nine points off the bench for Boston.
Shawne Williams paced the Knicks with a team-high 17 points. Carmelo Anthony had 15 points, 11 rebounds and six assists and Toney Douglas added 15 points for New York, which was held to 43.4 percent shooting in the loss.
Jared Jeffries paced the Knicks bench with 12 points, Roger Mason added 10 points and former Celtic Bill Walker added nine points for New York.
Amar’e Stoudemire, who was questionable prior to the game, finished with seven points and three rebounds in 33 minutes for the Knicks.
Both Amar’e Stoudemire and Chauncey Billups are listed as questionable for the Knicks — with Billups expected to be inactive while Stoudemire will probably be a game-time decision. Regardless, neither player will be at 100 percent for tonight’s game.
For Boston, only Shaquille O’Neal showed up on the Celtics injury report, giving the edge in to Boston as the Knicks try to win their first playoff game at Madison Square Garden since a first round victory over the Toronto Raptors 10 years ago today.
Boston will again need big contributions from the Big Three as Kevin Garnett came up big last game while Ray Allen’s huge three-pointer late in Game 1 was the eventual game-winning basket after Carmelo Anthony failed to deliver on the offensive end for the Knicks. Will Paul Pierce deliver the late game heroics tonight?
He might not have to, as NBA.com’s John Schumann pointed out today that the Knicks’ are still struggling with chemistry issues since their two best players — Stoudemire and Anthony — have played just 27 games together after the mid-season trade that brought ’Melo from Denver. The biggest issue, according to Schumann, is that despite their offensive prowess, the Knicks seem to be worse on defense when their two biggest stars are in the game together.
If the Celtics win tonight, their chance to close out the series will come on Sunday afternoon. With an aging roster, a four-game sweep — and the couple days of rest it would entail — might be just enough motivation for Boston to do everything in it’s power to keep New York winless at home in the playoffs for yet another season.
For more on this series, be sure to stay tuned to this Story Stream as well as SB Nation’s Celtics vs. Knicks hub. For more on the Celtics, visit Celtics Blog. For more on the Knicks, check out Posting and Toasting and SB Nation New York.
Shaquille O'Neal is making progress in his return from a right calf strain that has held him out of the first two games of the Celtics first round series with the Knicks. O'Neal was present at Boston's morning shootaround in New York, but will not play in Game 3 on Friday night, according to Celtics coach Doc Rivers.
"He's not ready to play yet but the fact that he's feeling better and he's closer, you just bring him on the road," Doc Rivers said. (via WEEI)
O'Neal, who suffered the calf injury against the Detroit Pistons on Sunday, April 3, did not play in the Celtics' final five regular season games. He averaged 9.2 points and 4.8 rebounds in 37 regular season games this season.
Stoudemire is suffering from back spasms, which held him out of the second half in Game 2, while Billups is still battling a strained knee that has held him out of the first two games of the series.
"We think we can get the job done, no matter what,'' said the coach [Mike D'Antoni]. "It'd be great if those guys can participate, but if not, we have to win anyway.'' (via Boston Globe)
Stoudemire scored 28 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in 38 minutes against the Celtics in Game 1, but had just four points five rebounds in nearly 18 minutes in Game 2. Billups averaged 17.5 points and 5.5 assists in 21 games with New York this season.
Kevin Garnett isn't usually the first option in the final seconds of a tight game, but the 14-time All-Star excelled in that role on Tuesday night.
Garnett made the go-ahead basket in the post with 13 seconds left and made a critical steal under the basket on the other end with four seconds left to send the Boston Celtics to a 96-93 victory over the New York Knicks at TD Garden in Game 3 of their first round series in the 2011 NBA Playoffs.
Boston grabbed a 2-0 series lead with Tuesday's win, putting the Knicks in a big hole as the series transitions to Madison Square Garden in New York City for Game 4 on Friday night and Game 5 on Sunday night.
Garnett finished with 12 points, 10 rebounds and six assists, but it was Rajon Rondo who led the Celtics on offense, setting a career playoff high with 30 points on 13-of-23 shooting and seven assists.
Carmelo Anthony (17 rebounds) had a career playoff high with 42 points on 14-of-30 shooting for New York, which was forced to play without Amar'e Stoudemire (four points, five rebounds, 18 minutes) for the entire second half after he sat out with back spasms.
New York was already missing starting point guard Chauncey Billups, who was held out of Game 2. Tony Douglas started in place of Billups, finishing with 14 points and seven rebounds in 34 minutes. Jared Jeffries had 10 points and six rebounds for the Knicks.
Still basking in the glow of Ray Allen's game-winner that gave them a 1-0 lead in their opening round playoff series against the Knicks, the Celtics get back to work Tuesday night in Game 2 at 7 p.m. EDT, on TNT and Comcast Sports Net New England. And they may be getting a bit of a break thanks to the knee injury suffered by New York point guard Chauncey Billups in the late stages of Game 1.
Billups said that his leg, "buckled up on me," and he limped off with under a minute to play in Game 1. Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni said Monday that his starter at the point is, "very questionable," for Game 2. If Billups can't go, the Knicks will counter with third-year man Toney Douglas, who drilled a big 3-pointer with 37 seconds left in Game 1 to give the Knicks a three point lead and finished the game with eight points on 3-of-8 shooting and two assists in 26 minutes and averaged 10.6 points and three assists per game in the regular season.
The Celtics, according to coach Doc Rivers, can't afford to take the Knicks lightly if they don't have Billups on Tuesday night, or else they may be falling into a trap. "Hopefully, it won't affect the way we approach the game," he told ESPN Boston. "We just have to worry about ourselves." In six games without Billups in March, Douglas put up 16.8 points and 6.8 assists per.
Billups's potential absence may aid the Celtics in the backcourt but where they would really like to see an advantage is up front. They got it in Game 1 thanks to Jermaine O'Neal's best game as a Celtic. O'Neal scored 12 points on a perfect 6-of-6 shooting and added three offensive rebounds and four resounding blocked shots in 22 active minutes. Overall, the Celts enjoyed a large rebounding advantage, something they haven't been able to do too much this year, especially in the later stages of the schedule. The totals were 44 boards to 34 with 15 on the offensive glass for the C's. Kevin Garnett led the way in that department for the Celts with 13, five offensive, while Rajon Rondo added nine.
The Celtics will also have to continue to play the kind of defense on Knicks star Carmelo Anthony that held him to 15 points on just 5-of-18 shooting. Anthony had a hard time getting untracked Sunday night after going to the bench with two fouls just 1:28 into the first quarter. But his 1-of-11 shooting in the second half was a direct result of the C's defense, particularly that of Paul Pierce. With Amare Stoudemire shining, sometimes dominating for the Knicks in Game 1, another big defensive effort on Anthony would go a long way for a 2-0 C's lead headed into Game 3 on Friday night at Madison Square Garden in New York.
The Boston Celtics trailed the New York Knicks at halftime of Game 1 of their NBA playoff series Sunday night, 51-43, following a particularly poor second quarter by the home team. But with the third quarter came a different Celtics team, one led by defense -- the Knicks were held to just 13 points in the third frame -- allowing Boston to battle back and take the lead with 9:05 left in the fourth quarter.
The final nine minutes was back-and-forth, with the Knicks taking leads of 80-75 and 82-78, only to see the Celtics fight back and eventually draw to within one point with just 37.3 seconds left, 85-84, on a Kevin Garnett alley-oop.
He did it again. Again.
Allen finished with 24 points on 9-of-15 shooting with six rebounds, but it didn't come easy to him on Sunday night. From CelticsBlog:
Ray Allen led Boston with a very efficient 24 points on 9-15 shooting, but he wasn't hot early. He didn't take a single shot in the first frame, and only managed to attempt 3 in the whole first half. But in that second half, something clearly changed, and you saw guys like Delonte West (who played great tonight) sticking picks on guys like he was the left tackle for the Patriots. 3 field goal attempts in the first half turned into 12 in the second, including but not limited to his game winning shot with 11.6 seconds left.
Game 2 is set for Tuesday night, at 7 p.m. ET.
If this is how the playoffs are going to go for the Celtics, their fans had better schedule a lot of relaxation time between games. Ray Allen's 3-pointer from the left wing with 11.8 seconds gave the Celts a stirring, come-from-behind, 87-85 win over the New York Knicks in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference first round series in the 2011 NBA Playoffs
Allen led the Celts with 24 points, 18 of them in the second half, making 3-of-5 from deep while adding six rebounds. Paul Pierce had 18 points and held Anthony to just 1-of-11 shooting in the second half, Kevin Garnett posted 15 points and 13 rebounds and Jermaine O'Neal had his best game as a Celtic with 12 points on 6-of-6 shooting, four rebounds (three offensive) and four thunderous blocks.
The C's were looking less like a championship caliber team and more like the inconsistent mess they've resembled for the past six weeks in the first half, trailing 51-39 at the break and getting outscored 28-15 in the second quarter, shooting 41 percent to the Knicks 54 percent in the process. But there was a renewed intensity after halftime, especially on the defensive end, which allowed Boston to get back into the game. The C's cut the Knicks lead to five to close out the third quarter before the two teams traded punches in the fourth. The Knicks went back ahead by as many as five in the final frame, as Amare Stoudemire did his best to take over. Stoudemire scored 14 of his 28 points in the fourth, showcasing one monstrous post move after another in the process. But it was Anthony who took the last shot for New York, a rushed, contested 3-point attempt from well beyond the arc.
Anthony, who finished with 15 points, was called for an offensive foul away from the ball on Pierce with 21 seconds left and the Knicks up one, setting the stage for Allen's heroics. The Celts had trailed by three with 35 seconds to go after a huge 3-pointer by Knicks guard Toney Douglas. But the Celts executed a perfect alley-oop from Rajon Rondo (10 points, nine rebounds and nine assists) to Garnett to cut the New York lead to a point.
The Celts got just eight points out of their bench and shot just 44 percent from the floor on the night, issues that will need to be addressed before Game 2, which will be played on Tuesday night at 7 p.m. The Knicks may be without point guard Chauncey Billups, who left late in the fourth quarter with a strained knee, and did not return.
The time has finally arrived. The NBA Playoffs, version 2011, are here and with that comes the Celtics' latest shot at Banner 18.
This year's quest begins with a matchup against the New York Knicks on Sunday night at 7 p.m. EDT, on TNT. The pairing of Boston and New York may sound pretty enticing, but is certainly less of a rivalry than you might think.
These two teams haven't met in the postseason since 1990,and prior to that, you would have to go back to 1984 to find another postseason series between Boston and New York. And the season series this year wasn't remotely close, with the C's taking all four meetings, though it should be noted that the last game happened on Wednesday, with both teams locked in to their respective slots and treating the proceedings like a glorified exhibition game.
For the Celtics (56-26), the key to the series will be the play of Rajon Rondo. Rondo, whose productivity decreased dramatically over the course of the last 20 or so games (three fewer assists per game, 43.3 percent shooting after the All-Star break vs. 50 percent before), will be matched up with the Knicks' Chauncey Billups, a wily veteran with loads of postseason experience and, like Rondo, a championship ring.
Yet Billups is susceptible defensively given his age, and Rondo should be able to get around him with ease en route to the basket when he chooses to do so. Rondo averaged 16.7 assists per game in three appearances against the Knicks this season, and numbers along those lines would most definitely grease the skids for the C's to advance the conference semifinals.
"We always want to get the ball in Rondo's hands and push it," Celts captain Paul Pierce told ESPN Boston. "We want to use his speed, especially in the open court."
The big key on the other side is Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony, who was acquired in a massive deal from the Denver Nuggets (along with Billups) on Feb. 22. Anthony averaged 26.3 points per game in 27 games after the trade from Denver, but the Knicks were just .500 to close out the regular season with him on the roster.
Anthony also made an impact on the defensive end, though not a good one. The Knicks (42-40) allowed 105.1 points per game with him wearing blue and orange; conversely, the Nuggets' average points allowed fell by a whopping 8.1 per game after he left for the Big Apple. Anthony's Nuggets teams reached the postseason in each of his seven seasons in Denver , but save for their run to the Western Conference Finals in 2009, never advanced past the first round.
The Celts will be without center Shaquille O'Neal, who still can't run after suffering a calf injury on April 3 against the Detroit Pistons, for Game 1, and likely longer. Shaq has played just five and a half minutes in the past 10 weeks, but his fellow injury prone center, Jermaine O'Neal, is healthy and ready to go for Sunday night's game, as is guard Delonte West, who sprained his ankle on Monday against Washington.
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