Celtics-Knicks preview: Something like a 'must-win'

Celtics-Knicks preview: Something like a 'must-win'
April 23, 2013, 12:00 pm
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Paul Pierce and the Celtics know that Game 2 is as close to a "must-win" as it gets.

(USA Today Sports)

NEW YORK — There is a quiet calm about the Celtics now. No over-the-top declarations or trash talking of any kind.

They know the deal. A win tonight, and we've got a series. Another Celtics loss, and it would be hard to fathom the C's winning four of the next five.

However, being down 2-0 is the last thing on the Celtics' minds right now. Their focus is where it should be: Finding a way to win tonight.

Since their Game 1 loss, Boston has talked about getting the ball to Kevin Garnett more, cutting down on its 21 turnovers in Game 1, and limiting the number of second-chance opportunities it gave the Knicks.

While a loss tonight for the Celtics would not close out the series, there's no getting around the importance for them to leave New York with a 1-1 split.

"Every game up until this point is a must-win," Garnett said. "You create an advantage. Both teams are trying to do that. They're at home; they feel they have to take advantage of the home court."

And the C's will want to do the same when the series shifts to the TD Garden for Games 3 and 4. Although the Celtics were among the top teams in the East at home this season (only Miami, New York and Indiana had better home records), beating the Knicks at the TD Garden will not be easy.

Put it this way: The C's next win over New York at the TD Garden will be their first this season. New York won the head-to-head regular season series, 3-1, which included a pair of wins in Boston.

But there's no time for the Celtics to start thinking about what they can accomplish in front of their fans. All their attention and focus has to be on tonight's game, which is about as close to a must-win game as the C's have had all season.

"It's the playoffs," said Jeff Green. "The only way to move on is to win, so we go into every game thinking it's a must-win."

Here are some other factors to consider as the Celtics and the Knicks face off in Game 2 of their best-of-seven series tonight.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: There will be a renewed focus on the Celtics' part to get the ball to Garnett. That doesn't mean KG will take a ton of shots or score a bunch of points. Boston will try to put him more in the role of a low-post facilitator, with the option to score, find an open man, or make the "hockey assist" -- the pass that leads to a pass that leads to a basket.

MATCHUP TO WATCH:  Paul Pierce vs Raymond Felton. There's a good chance that these two will face each other a good deal of the game, pitting Pierce's size and strength against Felton's quickness. In Game 1, Pierce had 21 points and seven assists, but he turned the ball over six times that to some degree negated his solid scoring game. Felton only had 13 points and 6 assists, but his impact was felt throughout his time on the floor, evident by the Knicks being +16 when he was in the game.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Pablo Prigioni (ankle) should be back in the Knicks' lineup tonight. It will be worth keeping an eye on how well the 35-year-old rookie (he'll be 36 next month) defends Avery Bradley, who had a playoff career-high 15 points on Saturday.

STAT TO TRACK: The Knicks are going to launch more than their share of 3s. During the regular season they took 28.9 per game, which tied the Houston Rockets for tops in the NBA. Even more significant is that they shoot 37.6 percent from beyond the arc, which is tied for the fourth-best shooting mark in the NBA. Meanwhile, the Celtics counter with a defense that has been pretty good against the 3-ball this season, holding opponents to 34.2 percent on threes, which ranks fourth in the league in three-point percentage defense.