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.