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.