Knicks lights-out shooting too much for Celtics, 118-110

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Knicks lights-out shooting too much for Celtics, 118-110

NEW YORK Right corner. Left corner. Right wing. Left wing.

It didn't matter where the New York Knicks were shooting 3's from. Just about everyone of them ended up in the same place - bottom of the net.

And that more than anything else, resulted in the Boston Celtics losing 118-110, to the Knicks.

Boston came into the game as the league's top team in 3-point percentage defense with opponents shooting just 29.1 percent against them this season.

Somebody must have not told the Knicks, who blistered the Celtics in the first half on 14-for-21 shooting on 3's.

But the Celtics, as they have done time and time again, managed to make things interesting in the third quarter as they trimmed New York's lead down to as little as 10 points on multiple occasions.

The C's couldn't break through, as New York went into the fourth quarter leading, 96-84.

Boston had their chances in the fourth to make it a single-digit game, but failed repeatedly to get the necessary basket or the much-needed defensive stop.

Boston finally got the Knicks lead into single digits following a pull-up jumper by Paul Pierce (43 points) with 4:04 to play, making it a 112-104 game.

The C's run was aided by Carmelo Anthony being on the bench after picking up his fifth personal foul early in the fourth.

Pierce continued to carry the C's on the comeback trail, as he drew a foul driving to the basket. He made both free throws with 3:07 to play, cutting New York's lead to 112-106.

But the Knicks responded with what else? a 3-pointer that put them up by nine points. A lay-up by Rajon Rondo was followed by another Knicks 3-pointer which made it a 10-point game with 2:03 to play.

Boston has managed to compensate for having a man or two down before, but New York's three-guard offense hit the Celtics exactly where they were most vulnerable.

The C's were hoping to have Ray Allen (ankle) back, but he was ruled out shortly before tip-off. Boston was also without Mickael Pietrus who had swelling his right knee and was sent back to Boston before the game.

Without those two, the Celtics were without their best perimeter scorer off the bench (Allen), as well as their best perimeter defender (Petrius) at the wing position.

To the Knicks credit, they recognized this shortcoming of the Celtics and took full advantage of it with crisp ball movement and a barrage of 3-pointers from all points on the floor.

Boston tried to keep the game within striking distance by launching a few 3s of their own, which included a pair of 3s from Rajon Rondo in the first half.

But New York's seemingly non-stop diet of 3-point basket after 3-point basket, buried the Celtics in the kind of first half hole that few teams ever climb back out of and become competitive, let alone rally for the win.

Blakely: Game 4 loss shows just how much Celtics miss Isaiah

Blakely: Game 4 loss shows just how much Celtics miss Isaiah

CLEVELAND --  Down the stretch in Game 4, the Celtics were desperate for someone, anyone, who could slow down Kyrie Irving.
 
But short of that, Boston could have used an offensive closer, too. You know, someone like Isaiah Thomas.

GAME 4: CAVS 112, CELTICS 99

 

The Celtics have relied on the two-time All-Star to carry much of the offensive burden this season, but he was almost always at his best in the fourth quarter.
 
A right hip injury knocked him out of this series after 1 1/2 games. Still, Boston managed to win Game 3 without him and, for large chunks of Tuesday night, seemed poised to beat the Cavs again on their home floor.
 
But as much as Game 4 was a reminder of just how special a talent Irving is (42 points, 21 in the third quarter when the game’s momentum swung in Cleveland's favor), it also provided a clue to the clueless who thought the Celtics were actually better without Isaiah Thomas.
 
Defensively?
 
Absolutely.
 
It’s no secret that teams go to great lengths to try and use his 5-foot-9 stature against him. And as we have seen, the deeper we get into the postseason the more trouble he and the Celtics seem to encounter from a defensive standpoint.
 
But just as we praise Irving for being such a special talent, Thomas has shown that he, too, has offensive gifts that, throughout this season, have left many fans, media and defenders befuddled as to how “the little fella” keeps coming up with one big play, one big shot after another.
 
But as we have learned, he has been dealing with a sore right hip injury for several weeks. The pain and discomfort eventually became too much to bear and so the Celtics did the right thing and shut him down.
 
Without him, the C's are still a good team that on any given night can knock off anyone, even the defending champs.
 
But as Game 4 reminded us, they need Thomas in order to be their best.
 
When Irving torched Boston’s entire defense with jumpers, ankle-breaking crossovers, Euro-step lay-ups and free throws, the Celtics had no one to turn to who could maybe, just maybe, go back at Irving at the other end of the floor.
 
That's what Thomas does that makes him such a special, unique talent in this league.
 
He can score in a variety of ways, with the best in the NBA.
 
We saw that this past season, when he led all players in the Eastern Conference in scoring with a 28.9 points-per-game average.
 
Boston’s excellent ball movement and high assist numbers are certainly important to the team’s success. But to make a deep and meaningful playoff run, you need one or two guys who can just go get buckets regardless of what the opponent does defensively.
 
That’s not Avery Bradley.
 
That’s not Al Horford.
 
That’s not Kelly Olynyk.
 
You can search, poke and prod this roster all you want, and you'll come up empty when it comes to finding a player like that . . . other than Isaiah Thomas.
 
The fact the Celtics were able to avoid getting swept is a victory of sorts in itself. Boston’s coaching staff, as well as the front office, has repeatedly said that as talented as their team is, they aren’t on the same level of the defending champion Cavaliers.
 
And yet here we are four games into this series and the Celtics are basically a bad half of basketball away from being tied, 2-2.
 
It says a lot about their mental toughness, their ability to handle and navigate past adversity to give themselves a chance to be competitive against any team -- including the Cavs.
 
But their success this season has always been about the collective group, regardless of how many late-game shots Isaiah Thomas knocks down.
 
And while he has his shortcomings defensively, not having him available is going to hurt them in those late-game moments when they need a closer. It’s not a coincidence the Celtics were just 2-4 when he didn’t play during the regular season.
 
So as cool as it was for them to win Game 3 without Thomas, he’s still the straw that stirs the Celtics emotionally, bringing them to levels few think they're capable of reaching.
 
They were able to get by for one night without him, but remember this: It took Marcus Smart having an Isaiah Thomas-like game of 27 points and seven made 3’s, for them to win.
 
No one did anything remotely close to that Tuesday night.
 
They looked like the Isaiah Thomas-less Celtics, which is a look they don’t need this time of year.
 
Because that look is so not about winning.