Knicks Might Play Game 2 With Big Two

Billups May Be Sidelined Tuesday Night with Strained Leg

WALTHAM, Mass. – When the New York Knicks traded the majority of their young talent to the Nuggets in late February for Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups, they did so with the intention of having their own version of a Big Three to carry them through the Playoffs.

During Tuesday night’s pivotal Game 2 in the TD Garden, New York may have only a Big Two to rely on.

Anthony, Billups and Amar’e Stoudemire were big enough to lead the Knicks toward a momentous victory for 47 minutes of play on Sunday night, but the 48th minute was disastrous. The Knicks blew a three-point lead and Billups was forced to watch the final 50.7 seconds of the game from the sideline after he suffered a strain in his left leg.

“I went to the basket, and as I took off on my leg it just kind of buckled on me,” Billups said after Boston’s 87-85 win Sunday night. “The doctors and everyone said it’s just a strain in my knee or the quad, the muscle that extends to my knee or whatever.”

This isn’t exactly an “or whatever” type of situation for the Knicks. Billups is a critical piece to their puzzle, and without him the team would lose depth at a position that is one of its strongest. New York’s point guard addressed the media casually on Sunday night and left open the possibility of playing in Game 2, but there was no doubt that his tone made such a comeback sound doubtful.

At the Knicks’ practice on Monday afternoon at the Garden, that tone didn’t seem to change.

"I don't know… I don't know,” Billups said of playing in Game 2. “It's really sore today. We'll see what happens. We'll see how it goes."

That sounds like a frustrated player who, like he said publicly Sunday night, has “no clue” if he’ll be able to participate in Tuesday’s critical contest. To put it best, the chances sound slim, and Mike D’Antoni said that his team is preparing as if it will play without the former Finals MVP on Tuesday night.

If Billups does indeed watch Game 2 from the bench, New York would be left with a big two of Anthony and Stoudemire surrounded by a team of role players. But as Doc Rivers quickly noted prior to Boston’s practice on Monday, the guy who would be filling in for Billups is no slouch.

“(Toney) Douglas has had a terrific year,” Rivers said of New York’s backup point guard. “They (the Knicks) went on their stretch, or streak, winning streak, when Douglas was playing and Chauncey was out.”

Rivers also referenced Douglas’ penchant for hitting big shots for the Knicks, something Billups has been known to do throughout his career. Douglas has hit several key buckets for New York this season, including last night’s 3-pointer with 37.3 seconds left in the game that, at the moment, looked as if it would give his team a huge road win in Game 1. Instead, the Celtics scored the final five points of the game to win 87-85 and send the Knicks into Monday wondering where they stand.

Douglas averaged 10.6 PPG for the Knicks this season, the highest of any of their reserves, and shot 37.3 percent from downtown. He scored in double-figures in six of his final seven games of the regular season and hit at least two 3-pointers in five of those contests. During Sunday night’s Game 1, Douglas notched eight points, and six of them came from his two makes from long distance.

"Toney played well last night, hit some big shots," D’Antoni said at New York’s practice on Monday. "You hate to lose Chauncey, obviously, but at the same time we feel good. Toney's gonna just have to save his energy up. He's gonna play a lot of minutes."

With that (near) fact in mind, the Celtics will need to prepare two game plans: one with Billups in the starting lineup and one with Douglas in the starting lineup. The two bring completely different styles of play to the table, as Billups likes to use his size and poise, while Douglas likes to use his speed and defense.

Regardless of who handles the point guard position for New York on Tuesday night, Rivers says that he doesn’t “think that will effect how we approach the game” in terms of sense of urgency. Paul Pierce hopes that is the case, because the Celtics haven’t exactly jumped on opponents this season when they’ve been forced to play without their stars.

“I think for us, we have to be more focused, because we haven’t done a good job of, if a star player sits – throughout the course of the season, we saw that opportunity many times and we’ve lost those games,” said Pierce. “I don’t know if we’ve taken them for granted or taken them too lightly because they’re missing a player and that the team wouldn’t play as hard, but we’ve lost quite a few games when the other team’s star is missing. So I hope, hopefully, even if Chauncey plays or he doesn’t, we take note (that) Toney Douglas is more than capable.”

Douglas showed that capability in the final minute of Game 1 by canning New York’s go-ahead 3-pointer, but he scored a total of only 30 points against the Celtics during four games in the regular season. If he doesn’t play more effectively than that in the likely absence of Billups, the Celtics could be staring at a 2-0 series lead as the teams shift venues to Madison Square Garden.