Arbella Game 2 Preview: Celtics at Knicks

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NEW YORK – Game 1 didn’t go the way the Boston Celtics wanted it to. That doesn’t mean their opportunity to steal home court advantage has vanished.

The Celtics will take on the Knicks at 8 p.m. tonight at Madison Square Garden and a win would even up the series at one game apiece. It would also put home court advantage in Boston’s back pocket, as three of the final five games of the series would be played at TD Garden.

Stealing home court won’t be an easy task. As Boston learned on Saturday, the Knicks may be known as a high-powered offense, but they can also win ugly games. New York’s 85-78 victory in Game 1 was not pretty by any stretch of the imagination but the Knicks won’t complain about the result.

While the Knicks didn’t play to the best of their abilities, it’s not as if the Celtics did, either. Boston could not put the ball through the basket in the second half of Game 1 after scoring 53 points and shooting 52.6 percent in the first half. Those numbers dropped all the way down to 25 points and 25.9 percent shooting in the second half.

jeff Green

Jeff Green led the Celtics with 26 points in Game 1, but he faded down the stretch.
Elsa/NBAE/Getty Images

Much of the reason why Boston struggled so badly was poor decision making. Its players made poor pass after poor pass, all while refusing to run the type of offense this team has used to be successful. The successful version of the Celtics’ offense features ball movement and great spacing. Boston's offense didn't display either of those characteristics over the final 24 minutes of Game 1.

The Knicks, meanwhile, did just enough to squeak by the C’s. New York only shot 35 percent in the second half to score 35 points, but it made key plays when it needed to. Carmelo Anthony scored 17 points in the second half and his one assist was a big one that led to a Kenyon Martin dunk with 40.6 seconds left in the game.

Anthony, who finished with a game-high 36 points, played just well enough to push New York over the top in the series opener. The Celtics are hoping to respond by playing just well enough to take Game 2 and steal home court advantage from the Knicks.

Preserve Green

Jeff Green didn’t get many opportunities to catch his breath during Game 1. That’s because he played a game-high 45 minutes and 35 seconds, all while serving as Anthony’s primary defender.

Playing all of those minutes and defending Anthony for that long can take a toll on the body. That’s believed to be one reason why Green scored 20 points in the first half of Game 1 and only six in the second half.

Doc Rivers has vowed to keep a much keener eye on Green’s minutes tonight. He needs to preserve his athletic forward’s energy so that Green can contribute to the game from start to finish.

Challenge Every Shot

Believe it or not, New York actually shot worse (40.5 percent) during Game 1 than Boston did (41.5 percent). That’s because the Knicks missed out on many scoring opportunities.

Rivers admitted Tuesday morning that New York missed a lot of open shots in Game 1. The Knicks aren’t a great shooting team, but one would expect them to hit a few more of those open shots tonight. With that in mind, Boston must concentrate on limiting the amount of open looks the Knicks get and challenging every shot they attempt.

Play Clean and Confident on Offense

We’ve heard for three days now about how ugly Boston’s offense was during the second half of Game 1. It’s time to make that talk go away.

The Celtics have an opportunity to turn their offense back in the right direction tonight, but they can only capitalize on that opportunity by playing clean and confident basketball. They can’t be sloppy with the ball and they must make shots that they’re accustomed to making.

“We can’t turn the ball over. We’ve got to stay in transition, we’ve got to space the floor,” said Rivers. “Bottom line is offensively we have to play better, obviously… a lot of our (issues) were self-inflicted.”

Self-inflicted problems, such as careless turnovers and missed layups, are easy to correct. The C’s must fix them tonight.