By A. Sherrod Blakely
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?