HARTFORD, Conn. Every season, regardless of how young or old a team is, pick-and-roll defense is always an area of concern.
That certainly was the case on Saturday as the New York Knicks picked the Boston Celtics defense apart in handing the C's a 98-95 loss.
Knicks rookie forward Chris Copeland was especially effective, finishing with a game-high 21 points primarily coming on dives to the basket on pick-and-roll plays.
While it appeared as though Boston's big men were primarily behind the Celtics' struggles with the pick-and-roll, C's coach Doc Rives was quick to clarify that they were not necessarily the problem.
"Our bigs were fine," Rivers said. "It was more the guards. The bigs were scoring on their teams, from the rolls. That doesn't have nothing to do with the big on the ball. That was our weak-side defense with our guards."
Still, pick-and-roll defense, regardless of who is responsible, will certainly be an area for the C's work on moving forward.
What doesn't seem be an see is the Celtics' bench pal which continues to deliver despite being thrown in and out of the starting lineup.
Saturday night's lineup was the third different one by Rivers in as many games.
They finished with 56 of Boston's 95 points which included three different players (Jeff Green, Jared Sullinger and Courtney Lee) reaching double figures scoring.
The game's down-to-the-wire finish is in stark contrast to the start which began with a 12-4 run by the Knicks.
Boston responded with a 13-4 spurt of their own to take their first lead of the night.
The C's continued to control the game most of the first half which ended with the Celtics on top, 50-42 at the half.
A big part of the first half success was the bench. In fact, Boston went with just four reserves in the first half - Milicic, Sullinger, Lee and Green.
Their point total at the half (24) was solid for a Celtic second unit. Even more impressive was their plusminus ratio with none of the C's backups having a plusminus ratio less than 5 in the first half.
However, the Knicks were still very much in the game in large part to their rebounding. But the C's made up for that by getting to the free throw line often.
At the half, Boston shot 20 free throws compared to nine for New York. The second half, things changed dramatically for both teams when it came to free thaws.
For the game, New York was 29-for-38 while Boston was just 23-for-27.