Lines: NYK -9
The Boston Celtics arrive at Madison Square Garden in New York with hopes of extending their first round matchup with the Knicks to a Game 6 back in Boston. However, for this to happen, a few things must go Boston’s way.
Boston benefited greatly from the absence of JR Smith, who was suspended for Game 4 in Boston due to a questionable flagrant two foul call and an ejection for an elbow which grazed the chin of Boston’s Jason Terry. While the flagrant two call was excessive, along with the ejection and suspension, the actions of Smith prevented the Knicks from sweeping the Celtics in four games. Now the teams are square with the players who entered the series in Game 1.
Boston must continue to receive strong efforts from the likes of Terry, Jeff Green and Paul Pierce. Terry scored the final nine points for Boston in the overtime frame of Game 4, and both Green and Pierce scored over 20 points for the Celtics. Kevin Garnett also snared 17 rebounds to help level off the rebound margin, which had been an area of weakness for Boston throughout this series. Additionally, Boston has to avoid quarter-long, and even (in Games 1 and 2) half-long cold streaks where they have only managed 25 and 23 points, respectively, in the second halves of Games 1 and 2, after producing the same output in the 1st quarter of each game thus far in the series. New York’s defense, which can appear to be lackadaisical at times, is actually top 5 in the NBA overall, and, when they buckle down, are difficult to figure out for any team. Boston must continue to attack the rim and have contributions from players other than Pierce and Green in order to win this game.
New York’s philosophy is simple: they merely need to continue doing what they have done over the past two months of the season.
Carmelo Anthony, who is coming off a career-worst 10-35 FG shooting game (although he still managed 36 points, which should bother Boston, given that Anthony is not likely to broach such horrid shooting again in Game 5), has been an unstoppable force for New York in this series and in the Knicks’ 21-3 run since Anthony’s return to the lineup following a knee procedure. With Smith back in the lineup, and his 20 PPG production and lockdown defense on Jason Terry, the Knicks own every discernible advantage across the board. The Knicks’ defense is better, the Knicks’ bench is deeper, Tyson Chandler and Kenyon Martin have played Garnett to a draw, the Knicks have also gotten production outside of Anthony and Smith from Iman Shumpert, and Raymond Felton, who has absolutely killed Boston all series. As long as Anthony and Smith produce as normal and the combination of Chandler and Martin do what they have done on both ends to this point, New York should win easily. Any contributions from Steve Novak, Chris Copeland and Jason Kidd will only widen the margin of what appears to be a New York victory in Game 5.