Celtics-Knicks Factbox: Game Three

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Celtics-Knicks Factbox: Game Three

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

The Boston Celtics put together their most complete game of the playoffs, easily defeating New York, 113-96. Boston now has a 3-0 series lead with a chance to close it out on Sunday.

Star of the game: Lots of worthy candidates for this, but the play of Paul Pierce stood out for several reasons. You love the fact that he had a game-high 38 points on an efficient 14-of-19 shooting night. Even more impressive than that was the way his defense on Carmelo Anthony, which set the tone for the C's overall play defensively against the Knicks' top scorer in this series. Anthony had just 15 points on 4-for-16 shooting from the field.

Studs: Rajon Rondo looked a lot like the Rajon Rondo we saw early in the season whose play was worthy of at least being mentioned among the top players in the game. He finished with his fourth career triple-double, scoring 15 points to go with 11 rebounds and 20 - yeah, that's right - 20 assists. And as usual, Ray Allen continues to deliver big games that far too often get overshadowed by the play of his teammates. Rarely has 32 points seemed to come as easy as it looked for Allen, who drained eight of his 11 3-point attempts.

Duds: The back spasms that cut Amar'e Stoudemire's night short in Game 2, were clearly an issue for him Friday night. When he drove to the basket, he didn't have nearly the explosiveness that we've come to expect. And when he shot jumpers, there was little to no lift on the shots. The end result was a seven-point game on 2-for-8 shooting from the field.

Key stat: The Celtics, the worst rebounding team in the NBA during the regular season, were plus-10 (44-33) on the boards Friday night. Many of those rebounds were offensive grabs, which factored into the Celtics having a 22-15 advantage in second-chance points.

What to look for in Game 4: Can Rondo, Pierce and Allen continue to dominate the Knicks the way they did in Game 3? Can Amar'e Stoudemire (back spasms) get healthy enough between now and Sunday to give them more than seven points on 2-for-8 shooting? And what about Chauncey Billups? Will his left knee injury heal in time for him to return on Sunday? Speaking of returning, what about Shaquille O'Neal? Even if he's healthy enough to play, do you play him with a 3-0 series lead and risk him getting hurt prior to a second-round matchup with Miami?

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Crowder on Cousins' style: 'Step up to the test or you get run over'

Crowder on Cousins' style: 'Step up to the test or you get run over'

BOSTON – There was a point in the fourth quarter when Sacramento's DeMarcus Cousins was fouled trying to score which brought about an automatic, intense and angry scowl from the all-star center. 

He raised his hand as he were going to strike back at the potential assailant. 

And then he saw the man was Jae Crowder. 

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Cousins, who had a game-high 28 points, then went to the free throw line, incident-free. 

“I’m not one those other cats he be punking,” said Crowder with a grin.

That moment was one of many throughout Friday night’s game when Crowder made his presence felt when the game mattered most, and wasn’t afraid to mix it up with whoever stood between him and helping the Celtics win – even Cousins. 

But as Crowder explained following Boston’s 97-92 win, that moment was about two physical players who have developed an on-the-floor rapport that speaks to their intensity and desire to win at all costs. 

“He’s going to bring the game to you; his physicality,” said Crowder who had 16 points on 6-for-12 shooting. “He’s a very physical type of guy. If he senses you’re not physical at all, he’ll let you know. He’s a dog down there; he’s a bull. I love to go against a player like that. He’s going to give you his best shot each and every night. You either step up to the test or you get run over.” 

As soon as the two made eye contact, Crowder knew it was one of the many intimidation methods used by Cousins against opposing players. 

Crowder wasn’t having it. 

“That’s my guy; he’s my guy,” Crowder said of Cousins. “He plays a lot of tactics against a lot of other players. I’ve earned that respect with him. He knows I’m going to fight him just as hard as anybody else. We leave it on the court. He’s a good friend of mine. We’ve become friends, just playing ball, playing basketball the right way.”