Celtics-Knicks Review: Missing anchor

Celtics-Knicks Review: Missing anchor
March 26, 2013, 11:30 pm
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BOSTON — If you take away the anchor to any ship, there's a good chance it'll float away to who knows where.

Take away the emotional, physical, defensive-minded anchor of the Boston Celtics - better known to most as Kevin Maurice Garnett -  and you'll see the Celtics become a rudderless ship with no sense of direction.

For far too many stretches of play, the Celtics lost their way Tuesday night as the Knicks pulled away for a 100-85 win.

Boston (36-34) has now lost five straight, while the Knicks won their fifth in a row. More important, New York beat Boston at the TD Garden for the second time this season.

"I mean, it’s hard to win here," said Knicks coach Mike Woodson. "Boston has been dominant. The history in this place is phenomenal. I played eleven years in the league and never won in the Boston Garden. So I mean, that’s how tough it was for me, and it’s tough for a lot of teams to come here and win."

Beating the Celtics becomes a lot easier to do when key players such as Garnett are missing.

And with his swollen left ankle expected to keep him out for at least another couple weeks, there's no way to tell if the C's will find their way without him or whether they'll continue to look lost and out of sync at both ends of the floor.

While there's no mistaking the impact and value that having Garnett on the floor brings to the Celtics, C's coach Doc Rivers isn't about to spend time playing the 'if only we had ..." game.

"Guys, I think you’ve been around me long enough.  Kevin’s not playing.  I don’t worry about it.  I really don’t," Rivers said. "And I don’t with our guys. We didn’t play well tonight.  I’m not going to go back and say, ‘Oh my gosh, we’ve got two more weeks of this.’  That’s not how you work in this league.  That’s not how you should work in this league.  Somebody else has to play better.  A lot of guys.  It’s not going to be one guy.  But overall we were pretty bad tonight.  Kevin had nothing to do with that; we were pretty bad.”

Here are some other factors outlined prior to the game, and how those factors played out for the Celtics.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: The Knicks will still take a ton of threes, but they don't look for the shot as much now as they did earlier this season. They average 28.8 threes per game, second only to the Houston Rockets (28.9) this season. But during their current four-game winning streak, they average 24.5 threes per game which ranks fifth in the league during that span.

WHAT WE SAW: It was a pretty average night for the Knicks when it came to shooting the three-ball. New York launched 28 threes, connecting on just 8 of them for a 28.6 percent shooting night. This was one of the few areas in which the Celtics delivered a fairly solid performance.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Courtney Lee vs. Pablo Prigioni: There are at least a couple sexier matchups than this, but Lee's athleticism should allow him to attack Prigioni off the dribble and find success around the basket against a Tyson Chandler-less Knicks team.

WHAT WE SAW: Lee's sprained left ankle kept him out, so this matchup literally did not materialize. Prigioni had seven points, five assists and two steals while playing just under 30 minutes. Just as important, the Knicks were plus-7 with him on the floor, second only to Carmelo Anthony (+16) among New York starters.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Paul Pierce will have to produce at both ends of the floor, a difficult task when you consider he'll have to try and limit Carmelo Anthony who like Pierce, is a big-time scorer.

WHAT WE SAW: Pierce had a solid game of 16 points, six rebounds and six assists on 5-for-10 shooting. But with no  Garnett (swollen left ankle) or Lee (sprained left ankle), the C's needed the captain to have a dominant performance and that did not happen.

STAT TO TRACK: New York's defense has been surprisingly strong of late and has been a major contributor to their current four-game winning streak. In the last four games, opponents are shooting 44.2 percent from the field which is the ninth-best field goal percentage defense during that span. For the season, opponents have shot 45.7 percent against them which ranks 18th in the league.

WHAT WE SAW: The Knicks limited the Celtics to 44.9 percent shooting, but it was their ability to get points off turnovers (17) and rack up the second-chance points (29) that proved to be too much for the Celtics to overcome.