Knicks push Celtics to edge, 90-76

Knicks push Celtics to edge, 90-76
April 26, 2013, 10:30 pm
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BOSTON — The scene could not have been any more picturesque for a Boston Celtics win than it was Friday night.

Down 2-0 in their best-of-seven series with the New York Knicks, the C's were in an absolute must-win game for them to have any realistic shot at staying alive in this series.

They were surrounded by a full house of fans who all in some way are still healing from the mental if not physical scars left behind from the Boston Marathon Bombings on April 15.

So many of those who went above and beyond during this city's time of need were on hand, such as Boston Police officers, individuals who treated the injured in addition to Gov. Deval L. Patrick, were in attendance.

A common theme throughout the night was, Boston Strong.

You could see those words on white t-shirts, green t-shirts. Black ones, too.

While it may have been the theme of the night, it certainly wasn't an apt description for the Boston Celtics' play which once again wasn't good enough to win.

And now the Celtics find themselves on the brink of playoff elimination following a 90-76 Game 3 loss on Friday.

The only time Boston seemed to play with a little fire was the first minute or so after New York's J.R. Smith hit Jason Terry with an elbow that resulted in him being whistled for a Flagrant-2 foul which is an automatic ejection.

But within minutes, whatever momentum the C's were feeling had been washed away as Tyson Chandler caught a lob dunk on one end of the floor, and drew an offensive foul against Jordan Crawford at the other.

Boston now trails 3-0 in the best-of-seven series, with the Knicks in position to eliminate the C's in Game 4 on Sunday.

On a night that began with so much promise, a night when true "Heroes Among us" were indeed throughout the arena, it ended with the C's on the verge of having their season end sooner than it has ever since Kevin Garnett arrived in town prior to the 2008 NBA title run.

There was no mistaking the ridiculously high energy in the building was fueling the C's early on to the point where they appeared almost too amped for the occasion.

After winning the opening tip, Boston had not one, not two, but three point-blank shots around the basket that failed to go in.

That wasn't the only issue that the Celtics had in the game's early going.

C's coach Doc Rivers decided to make a lineup change, inserting a struggling Jason Terry into the starting lineup while sending Brandon Bass - their best rebounder and arguably their most consistent frontcourt player in this series - to the bench.

Like most of Rivers' decisions in this series, it didn't work.

The impact of the switch was evident in the Knicks having a 7-2 advantage in second-chance points (the kind of stuff that having Bass on the floor might have limited to eliminated altogether) and the man that Terry was assigned to, Pablo Prigioni hitting a pair of 3s in the first quarter.

It put the Celtics in a 23-18 hole after one quarter of play, a hole that only got deeper in the second quarter as the Knicks continued to pull away in a surprisingly dominant fashion.

And the success by New York was fueled by a comedy of errors for the Celtics.

If it wasn't Avery Bradley throwing a simple bounce pass into the post too hard to be handled, it was Paul Pierce losing control of the ball without any pressure from the defense.

Meanwhile, the Knicks simply continued to move the ball on offense with eight different scorers in the first half, while the Celtics continued to look like an old and feeble team whose battle-tested leaders simply had little left to lead the troops to victory and the team's next wave of talent unable to take the reigns.

Boston trailed 47-31 at the half and as bad as that was, there was a sense that the Knicks had it in them to make the game even more lopsided in the second half.

But as we had seen in the first two games, the team leading at the half - Boston in Games 1 and 2 - sputtered out the gates in the third and was just flat-lined in the fourth.

That would not be the case on Friday as the Celtics spent the first six minutes of the third quarter unable to make up much ground.

Trailing 49-38, the Celtics forced a turnover and were in transition which has been their best offense in this series.

Before Jason Terry could find a teammate to pass to, he was stripped by Pablo Prigioni.

New York went on a 7-2 run to push their lead back to 16 points - the same margin they had at the half.

Boston's toughest enemy for most of the first three quarters was themselves, with 13 turnovers resulting in 22 points for the Knicks ... and that was with 2:21 to play in the third quarter.

Meanwhile, New York had just seven turnovers at that point in the game that generated a pitiful three points for the Celtics.

Trailing 63-46 at the time, the C's had the look of a team that was simply shell-shocked by a New York Knicks team that  had been tougher mentally and physically the entire series.

Not even Knicks guard Raymond Felton telling reporters before the game that he could, "get to the basket at any time, any point in the game" seemed to do much to fire up the Celtics players when told before the game about Felton's comments.

"We're going to do what we have to do, come up with a new game plan for him," C's forward Jeff Green said prior to tip-off.

Here's Avery Bradley's take on Felton's comments: "Everybody's going to have confidence in themselves. I can't knock him for that, but I have confidence in myself at the same time. You just take it as a challenge."

But for most of the game, Felton simply took it to the Celtics and because of that, the C's are on the verge of being totally taken off the NBA playoff landscape by way of a sweep.