The atmosphere at the Garden was electric, Spike Lee had on all orange apparel, and the fans rocked the building. The reason being that their #2 seeded New York Knicks who enjoyed arguably their best regular season (54-28) under the Carmelo Anthony era hosted their hated rival the #7 seeded Boston Celtics for the first game of the 2013-14 Eastern Conference playoffs. This season the Knicks ended the 5 year run of the Celtics topping the Atlantic Division. Before the tip-off both Carmelo Anthony, and Paul Pierce gave some warm words in the direction of the recent troubles that have affected Boston this past week. However after the first dribble it was all business on both sides.
Going into this series I had already made up my mind that this would be hands down the most entertaining series of the first round. Well the NBA's leading scorer Carmelo Anthony proved me right, starting off with a bang going 4/4 from the field (2 three pointers) with 10 points in the first 4:14 minutes of the game. His shot was falling, and as each one hit the crowd got more into it making it seem as if the Knicks would run away with this game and never look back.
However that illusion was wiped away, as head coach Doc River's reminded people that he is one of the very best in the business at implementing his game plans. The Celtics showed they weren't about to back down countering in the first half with sensational plays of their own. We saw J.R. Smith (15 points, 7-19) penetrate and finish in the lane with a sensational dunk, only to be upstaged by a Paul Pierce 3-pt play that silenced the cheers that had just started seconds before. Those types of back, and forth plays showed just how tightly contested this series may prove to be.
Things were dead locked until the 6:00 minute mark of the 2nd QTR. The Celtics did what they had to do defending Melo to the best of their ability, and forcing the others around him to make shots which at first was hardly happening.
We saw a combination of power forward Brandon Bass, and swing-man/forward Jeff Green defending the NBA's most lethal scoring option at a pretty efficient rate. And as if things couldn't get worst for the Knicks Jeff Green was on fire as he went toe to toe with Melo in terms of scoring. He finished the first half with 20 points (7/10 shooting). Greens productivity combined with the great team defense, and timely scoring from the combination of Avery Bradley/Paul Pierce gave the Celtics a 53-49 lead going into the second half of play.
That all changed as the Knicks came into the second half playing some of the best defense I've ever seen from them. Jason Kidd (8 points, 5 rebounds, 3 steals), and Carmelo Anthony (36 points, 6 rebounds, 4 steals, 4-6 from 3-pt) were menacing in the lanes not allowing any easy passes. And they took advantage of the Celtics missing all-star Rajon Rondo (lead NBA in assist, & triple doubles) at point guard as Avery Bradley (15 points, 3 steals, 3 rebounds) who stepped up for the most part still made some of the most horrific entry passes he could have made. We also saw a big time defensive effort from Kenyon Martin (10 points, 9 rebounds, 2 blocks) who made his mark in the paint which was crucial down the strecth.
That combined with the overall sloppiness of the Celtics offense played into NYK's favor as they terrorized the Celtics on the defensive end. Jeff Green who had a sensational 20 point first half was only able to finish with 6 points in the second half was shut down by Carmelo who usually isn't the lockdown defender, and the Celtics as a team where held to the lowest amount of points in a half in their team playoff history. In fact they only scored 8 points in the entire 4th QTR.
The stifling late 4th QTR defense of the Knicks, dreadful offense from the Celtics in the entire 2nd half, and clutch late game offense from none other than Carmelo Anthony himself helped lead the Knicks to their 85-78 victory giving them game 1 of this first round match up. This was a great win for NYK as they have had their playoff issues in the past especially against Boston.And it seems that Carmelo is highly intent on improving his 31.5 career winning % in the post season (the worst active players who score 20 points or more).
I expect the Knicks to win this series in 6 games, but knowing how well a Doc Rivers coached team does in these most crucial times I don't expect it to get any easier. This should be an interesting series, and after today I'm sure it'll get even more heated towards the end.
Game 2 of the New York Knicks (1-0) vs the Boston Celtics (0-1) will be April 23rd, at 8:00pm ET only on the TNT network.