Offense Explodes at MSG, as Pierce, Allen Bomb Knicks with 3s in Game 3
New York, NY - After earning two victories despite a pair of mediocre offensive outings, the Celtics finally hit on all cylinders Friday night at MSG and dismantled the Knicks in Game 3, setting the scene for a possible sweep in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo were all at the top of their games in the World’s Most Famous Arena, and the result was a dominant wire-to-wire performance that started with a 22-5 run to open the game, and really ended with a 34-19 third quarter that buried an ailing Knicks squad in Game 3 and possibly the rest of the series. The fourth quarter was mostly garbage time.
“You come out and hit them first. You don’t give them a reason to get the crowd going. From there we were comfortable. This is a pretty raucous crowd,” Pierce said after dropping a game-high 38 points. “It was pretty intimidating at first but we did a great job of taking them out of the game.”
They may have taken the Knicks out of the series as well. Up 3-0, the Celtics have put the Knicks at a deficit from which no NBA team has ever recovered. Given that Chanucey Billups missed his second straight game and Amar’e Stoudemire looked like a shell of his former self as he battles back spasms, all signs are pointing toward a sweep. If the Celtics take care of business on Sunday, it would be the first playoff sweep of the Big Three era.
“[If] we get the job done on Sunday, it gives our veteran team a break. I think this team has a sense of urgency to get it done Sunday,” Pierce said.
Leading up to the game, the atmosphere in the building was electric as the Knicks were hosting their first playoff game in seven years. But that electricity was cut off quickly when Pierce dropped 14 points in the opening quarter, and the C’s took a lead they’d never relinquish. The Celtics definitely fed off the pregame vibe in the historic arena, ruining a homecoming for the Knicks who’ve been advertising that they’re “back where they belong” in the postseason.
“It was pretty much what I expected, what I remembered,” Allen said of the MSG crowd and buzz surrounding the game. “My first couple years in the league I came up here and watched playoff games. It’s always intense and it was no different tonight. You know you’re in a hostile environment. It was exciting and a great atmosphere.”
Bombing from downtown all night, the Celtics knocked down 14 3-pointers, and Allen is now 15-for-20 in the series from behind the arc. Rajon Rondo was setting up Pierce and Allen for the entire game, and the Celtics point guard posted a ridiculous 15-point, 20-assist and 11-rebound triple-double in the process.
So what worked tonight that didn’t happen in the first two games? Doc said it was simple: The Celtics kept it simple.
“I thought our defensive energy to start the game, we got stops and then kept the game simple. [It was our] best job of setting picks of the year. Every time we got in trouble when we tried to do too much.”
Rivers also credited his point guard with calling a great game. “I thought Rondo had one of those great catcher games,” Rivers said, namechecking Jason Varitek in the process. “He called a terrific game. When he does that, it allows us to run pretty much what we want to run.”
The Celtics led 52-44 at the half despite committing 15 turnovers in the first 24 minutes, but they came out like gangbusters in the third period and continued to pound the glass. That 34-point period basically finished the Knicks, breaking their spirit with long range bombs and easy looks at the hoop.
“I think we put together four quarters,” Rondo said after his jaw-dropping performance. “Tonight, as soon as we started taking care of the ball in the second half, we opened it up.”
The C’s took a lot of long jumpers, but when they didn’t fall, they were gathering up rebounds and connecting for 22 second-chance points. Many of those came on Ray Allen 3s when the ball got kicked back out to the perimeter.
“That sucks a lot of air out of you,” said Knicks star Carmelo Anthony, who posted a very pedestrian 15 points on 4-for-16 shooting. His tag-team partner Stoudemire was a non-factor and appeared to be playing in slow motion. Stoudemire admitted that he’s struggling to put on his socks and shoes, so it comes as no surprise that he failed to be a presence in the paint Friday despite a valiant effort. The man they call STAT had seven points on eight attempts and later admitted he wasn’t 100 percent and has no chance of being 100 percent on Sunday either.
The only thing about the Knicks that is 100 percent right now? They’re 100 percent backed up against the wall.