Celtics-Knicks review: Fatigue slows Green

Celtics-Knicks review: Fatigue slows Green
April 20, 2013, 8:30 pm
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NEW YORK —  The final stat line will show that Jeff Green had playoff career highs in points (26) and blocked shots (3), not to mention he grabbed seven rebounds.

But there was another career mark set by Green - 46 minutes played - that had a greater impact on the game's outcome, one in which Green faded away down the stretch of Boston's 85-78 Game 1 loss to New York.

After lighting the Knicks up for 20 points by halftime, Green could only muster up six in the second half while missing four of his five shot attempts.

"We have to find a way to get Jeff more minutes (of rest)," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "I honestly just left him out there and he got tired."

After the game, Green acknowledged that fatigue may have played a role in the loss.

"We just got tired I guess," he said. "We just have to figure out a way to close out quarters and close out the game."

It was Green's 3-pointer at the end of the first quarter that gave the C's a 29-26 lead.

Boston had a strong close to the second quarter, outscoring the Knicks 13-5 to take a 53-49 lead at the half.

The second half was a different story.

A missed 3-pointer by Paul Pierce would have given the Celtics a 10-point lead in the third quarter. New York scored the final four points of the third and the first five of the fourth quarter to regain a lead that they were able to hold on to for the rest of the game.

"We were in a great position to take over the game, to win the game," Green said.

Finishing quarters strong was certainly a major key to Boston's Game 1 loss.

Here are some other factors identified prior to Game 1, and how they actually played out.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Either Paul Pierce or Jeff Green will have a matchup advantage depending on which lineup New York trots out to start the game. Look for one of those two, to get opportunities to score early on.

WHAT WE SAW: The Celtics did a nice job of exploiting the Green matchup. He attacked Carmelo Anthony more than we saw in the regular season, and made the most of pick-and-roll switches that had him being guarded by slower players like Chris Copeland or Steven Novak off the bench. He led the C's with 26 points along with seven rebounds and three blocked shots.

MATCHUP TO WATCH:  Kevin Garnett vs Tyson Chandler. Their respective team's defensive anchors, Garnett has to win this matchup in order for Boston to have a shot at Game 1. He has been limited to just three games in the month of April and has logged no more than 28 minutes in any of them, so Garnett's health should not be an issue.

WHAT WE SAW: Garnett made a bigger impact on the game, but not anywhere close to being a dominant force. He had eight points on 4-for-12 shooting, and nine rebounds compared to Chandler who did not take a single shot from the field and grabbed just five rebounds. But for Garnett to get just five shots in the second half, the C's have to put forth a better effort to get him shots going forward.

PLAYER TO WATCH:  J.R. Smith should be the runaway winner of the league's Sixth man of the Year award, primarily because he has shown a maturity both on and off the court that he lacked in previous NBA seasons. If he's able to continue to play with the poise, focus and composure we've seen in the regular season, the C's are going to be hard-pressed to win this series.

WHAT WE SAW: The Celtics can't bank on Smith having many more shooting games like he did in Game 1 with 15 points coming on 7-for-19 shooting. For him to shoot so poorly and New York still comes away with a win, only adds to disappointment and the reality that the Celtics let a very winnable game get away from them.

STAT TO TRACK:  The Knicks turned the ball over a league-low 12 times per game, so Boston's ability get the most out of New York miscues will be huge. While the Celtics would love to get out and score in transition, they know that's a difficult thing to do in the playoffs. "I expect it to be kind of like a grind it out game, defensive battle," said Boston's Paul Pierce who added, "both teams are going to try and value the ball, get the best shots possible. As much as we say we want to run, the scoring goes down in the playoffs."

WHAT WE SAW: Boston failed to force the Knicks into the kind of mistake-filled game that they needed in order to be successful. The Knicks turned the ball over just 13 times which cost them a mere 10 points. Even more impressive was New York went the entire fourth quarter without turning the ball over once.