Arbella Game 3 Preview: Knicks at Celtics

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BOSTON – Basketball will finally return to Boston when the Celtics host the Knicks at 8 p.m. tonight in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series. New York leads the series two games to none after taking home Games 1 and 2 at Madison Square Garden.

Boston hasn’t played a home game in 16 days. The Celtics have been on the road since April 10 due to the bombings that took place at the Boston Marathon, which resulted in the cancellation of their final home game of the season. Now the Celtics finally have an opportunity to return home with the hope of winning their first game of this series.

Boston’s goal is to win Game 3, but that won’t be possible unless it drastically improves its play, particularly in the second half. The C’s have taken a lead into halftime into during both the first two games but have been outscored 81-48 during the second halves. Those two second halves have featured an overall shooting percentage of 22.2 percent by Boston.

As one might imagine, media members are wondering why the team is falling apart in the second half of games. They have swarmed Boston’s players and coaches with questions over the past few days and received a few different answers, the least comforting of which came from Doc Rivers.

Jeff Green

Jeff Green and the Celtics know that their aggression has fallen off during the second half. They'll look to change that trend tonight.
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images

Rivers has said that his team is coming out “flat” in the second half of these games. He has also commented several different times that he “doesn’t know” why that is the case, but that he is searching for answers.

No team should come out flat at any point of a playoff game. Period. The Celtics know that, and that’s why they plan on increasing their aggressiveness during Game 3.

“I think in the second half we lack the aggression that we’ve come out with (in the first half),” Green said. “It’s clear to see when you watch film (of the first half) how hard we’re attacking, how we’re running our offense, our defensive pressure. It’s just clear that the aggression between the two halves is totally different.”

New York’s aggression, on the other hand, hasn’t changed at all. They’ve run their offense through Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith throughout both games and fired up 3-pointers whenever they’ve been given the opportunity. Anthony and Smith are combining to score 52 points per game in the series and the Knicks have hit 16 3s.

Many of these facts must change in order for the Celtics to victory in their return to TD Garden. They cannot afford to lack aggression during the second half and they’ll need to contain the dangerous duo of Anthony and Smith.

Use the Crowd

Rivers said it best on Thursday when he commented, “That’s why they call it a home court advantage. They always provide you with energy.”

New York can attest to that after playing off of its crowd during Games 1 and 2. Knicks fans were raucous during every run their team made. There’s no doubt that the crowd’s presence played a role in the results.

Now it’s the Celtics’ turn to use the crowd in their favor. We all know that Boston fans are the best out there. If the Celtics give the crowd a reason to push the decibel level up, they should be able to use that energy to their advantage.

Perimeter Defense

One area where the Celtics can drastically improve is their perimeter defense. New York’s guards have had a field day taking the ball off of the dribble and that has put a lot of stress on Boston’s defense.

Raymond Felton has been the key to that penetration. He has been breaking Boston’s defense down with ease, which has led to averages of 14.5 PPG and 4.0 APG. The C’s have two options to slow Felton and Co. down.

First, their current players can simply play better. Paul Pierce, who has been matched up with Felton quite a bit, hasn’t done a great job.

Secondly, the C’s can turn to Courtney Lee for more minutes. He is one of Boston’s best on-ball defenders and he could provide quite a boost in this department.

An Impactful KG

Kevin Garnett had a solid Game 2 despite playing only 24 minutes amidst foul trouble. He logged a double-double of 12 points and 11 boards during that limited playing time.

The Celtics established Garnett on the block much more during Game 2 than they did in Game 1 and it led to the big man catching a rhythm. The only problem was that his foul trouble prevented him from making a true impact on the game.

Boston isn’t going to win this series if KG doesn’t make an impact. He is one of the team’s best players and they need him to alter the game with his scoring, rebounding and elite defense.