C's Struggle With Pick-and-Roll, Fall to NY

HARTFORD, Conn. – The New York Knicks pick-and-rolled the Boston Celtics to death Saturday night en route to a 98-95 overtime victory at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn.

The combination of point guard Pablo Prigioni and center Chris Copeland was a nightmare for the C’s over the final six minutes of regulation and five minutes of overtime. They ran the pick-and-roll on nearly every possession and the Celtics simply had no answers.

Kevin Garnett

Kevin Garnett goes through his pregame ritual before taking the court in Hartford, Conn. against the Knicks on Saturday.
Peter Stringer/Celtics.com

New York forced the overtime session thanks to two points and two assists from Prigioni and eight points from Copeland over the final six minutes of regulation. Those two players also excelled at the defensive end, forcing the Celtics into four turnovers during that time frame.

The Knicks opted to go with the “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” mentality when overtime began. They continued to run the pick-and-roll and they continued to see positive results. Copeland scored another eight points in overtime, almost all of which came off of pick-and-rolls, to lead the Knicks to victory.

To the naked eye, it may have looked as if Boston’s big men were the ones who were continually beat on the play. However, Doc Rivers saw it very differently.

“Our bigs were fine. It was more the guards,” said Rivers. “The bigs were scoring on their team from the rolls. That has nothing to do with the big on the ball; that was our weak-side defense with our guards.”

Prior to the pick-and-roll-athon that the Knicks held over the final 11 minutes of the game, the Celtics had seized control for the majority of the contest. They fell behind 12-4 in the opening minutes of the first quarter but quickly turned things around with a 13-4 run of their own to take a 17-16 lead. During that stretch, Boston shot 8-of-8 from the free-throw line.

The C’s attempted 15 free throws overall in the first quarter and made 14 of them. Boston’s constant offensive pressure was led by Paul Pierce (4-of-4 FTs), Darko Milicic (3-of-4 FTs) and Rajon Rondo (3-of-3 FTs). The high rate of free throws, and accompanying success, helped lead the C’s to a 28-27 lead at the end of the first quarter.

New York’s defense rectified its foul habits in the second quarter and limited the C’s to just five free throw attempts in the frame. However, that did not stop Boston from opening up a comfortable lead.

Jeff Green threw down a monstrous dunk with 9:36 remaining in the second quarter that sparked a 10-2 run for Boston. Green scored six points during the run, including a 3-pointer from the corner.

That stretch gave the Celtics their first double-digit lead of the game at 42-32. They continued to play from ahead through the end of the third quarter, at one time jumping ahead by as many as 12 points. But as Boston’s starters began to trickle out of the game and onto the bench, New York was able to chip away at the Celtics’ lead and make it a 66-63 game at the end of the third.

Neither team had any of its starters on the floor to begin the final quarter. That would typically make for an ugly display of basketball, but that was not the case during the opening minutes of the fourth. The teams went back and forth in the opening minutes of the period with some strong play at both ends. The C’s pulled ahead by six points with 6:58 remaining in the game when Kris Joseph put home an offensive rebound off of his own miss.

That was about the last positive moment for Boston on this night, as they were drilled over and over with pick-and-rolls for the remainder of the game. The C’s were overpowered by the chemistry that Prigioni and Copeland displayed and wound up dropping their first preseason game against an NBA opponent.

The Celtics fell to 1-2 in the preseason but the loss did not come without any positives. Several players stood out in the contest, including rookie Jared Sullinger. He led the team in scoring with 14 points and also tied for the team high in rebounds with seven. He was able to accomplish all of that in less than 26 minutes of playing time before he fouled out of the game in overtime.

Three other Celtics scored in double-digits, including 12 points apiece from Pierce and Green. Rajon Rondo excelled during his 25 minutes of action, accumulating nine points, seven rebounds and four assists. Courtney Lee also chipped in 11 points off of the bench.

The Celtics will look to even up their preseason record at 2-2 when they return to action at 7 p.m. Monday night in Philadelphia.