Round 1 Game 4: Knicks at Celtics 4/24

Boston Celtics (3-0) at New York Knicks (0-3)
Sunday, April 24
3:30 PM ET
Playoff Game #1   Road Game #2
Radio:  WEEI, ESPNR 
Madison Square Garden 
Referees:   Mike Callahan,  Derrick Collins, Ken Mauer
The Celtics face yet another closeout game in the playoffs.  In the Big Three era, the Celtics are 8-11 in games where they have the opportunity to close out the series.  More disturbingly, they are just 1-9 on the road in these games.

  In two different series their failure to close the series has come back to bite them.  In 2009, they failed to close out the series vs Orlando in game 6 and the Magic came into the Garden and won the series in game 7.  Last season, they had 2 chances to close out the Lakers in both games 5 and 6 but failed to do so and lost Perk to the knee injury in game 6 and lost the title in game 7. 

There is a silver lining to these stats and that is the fact that the Celtics are now up 3-0 in the series and in 94 tries, no team has ever come back from being down 3-0 to win a 7 game series.  Three teams, however, have come back to tie the series at 3-3 before losing in a game 7.  The Celtics need to take care of business in this game and not allow the Knicks to get healthy and gain confidence.    It would be great if the Celtics would take care of business in this game and we wouldn't have to worry about any of that.

The Celtics have already ruled Shaq out for this game, and wisely so.  Amar'e said that his back was worse after playing in game 3 and if it was still sore he wouldn't play in this game.  I'm expecting Shawne Williams to get the start in his place.    Chauncey hasn't ruled out playing but said it was very doubtful.  Both are listed as questionable.    With the Celtics a year older and the competition stiff, the Celtics need to try to win in as few games as possible so a sweep here would be nice. 

The Celtics should expect the Knicks to come out and play with desperation.  Their pride is on the line in front of their home crowd and we probably won't see another dispirited attempt on their part in this one.  The Celtics were clicking on all cylinders except one in game 3, and that was the bench play.  If the bench can finally get it together and have a break out game,  the Celtics should win this one regardless of the Knicks' effort. 

Probable Starters
Point Guard
Rajon Rondo vs Toney Douglas

Shooting Guard
Ray Allen  vs Landry Fields

Small Forward 
 Paul Pierce  vs Carmelo Anthony

Power Forward
Kevin Garnett  vs Shawne Williams 


Jermaine O'Neal  vs Ronny Turiaf

Boston Bench Mob
Glen Davis
Jeff Green
Delonte West
Troy Murphy
Carlos Arroyo
Sasha Pavlovic
Avery Bradley
Von Wafer

Shaquille O'Neal (Achilles, calf, age) out

Knicks Bench
Bill Walker
Andy Rautins
Jared Jeffries
Roger Mason Jr
Anthony Carter
Shelden Williams
Renaldo Balkman
Derrick Brown


Amar'e Stoudemire (back) questionable
Chauncey Billups (knee) questionable

Key Matchups
Paul Pierce vs Carmelo Anthony
Pierce has called Melo his toughest matchup in the league.   Anthony had a 42 point outburst in game 2, but Pierce wasable to limit his production in games 1 and 3.  In game 3, Pierce also kept him busy on defense as he hit for 38 points, shooting 14-19 from the field.    It would be nice to have another big game on the offensive end from Pierce, but more importantly, he needs to once again keep Melo from having a big game. 

Rajon Rondo vs Toney Douglas
Rondo has been playing very well for the Celtics in the series so far, with his best game in Game 3 when he had 15 points, 11 rebounds and 20 assists.  As has been said many times this season and in the playoffs, as Rondo goes, so go the Celtics.  Chauncey Billups is once again considered doubtful for this game and chances are that if he plays, he won't be 100%.  Rondo has an advantage at this position and needs to take advantage of it. 

Honorable Mention
Ray Allen vs Landry Fields
Ray found his shooting touch in game 3 and was able to get open shot to put up 32 points on 11-18 shooting.  Ray has a mismatch at this position and hopefully he will be on fire in this game also.  Fields has apparently hit the rookie wall to the point that Knicks fans want him out of there.  Hopefully he continues to struggle in this game. 

to the Game

REBOUND!!! -  It's no coincidence that when the Celtics out-rebounded the Knicks 43-33 in game 3, they got a big win.  When the Celtics put out the effort on the boards, it translates to all other areas of the game.  Rebounding is very important to getting the win and the Celtics have to continue to crash the boards in this game to keep the Knicks from getting second chance and fast break points. 

Bench Play -  The Celtics bench players have been terrible so far in this series.  They have gotten out played by the Knicks reserves in all 3 games so far.  The Celtics have got to get more out of their bench.  Big Baby is averaging 3.3 PPG and 5.0 RPG.  Jeff Green is averaging 6.3 PPG and 2.3 RPG.  Delonte is averaging 2.0 PPG and 1.3 APG.   Krstic is averaging 0.0 PPG and 1.0 RPG.  The starters have had to play too many minutes to avoid a total collapse every time the reserves come in.  They must get it together and give the team more off the bench if the Celtics expect to win this series and Banner 18. 

Ball Movement
- The Celtics finally moved the ball and made the extra pass throughout game 3 and it resulted in a blow out win.  It is so important for them to continue to move without the ball, make the extra pass and find the open man.  Unselfish play results in good things as we saw in game 3.

Be Aggressive -  The Celtics must be the more aggressive team.  They have to be the team that dives for loose balls, crashes the boards, hustles for the 50-50 balls and drives to the basket to draw the foul.  They also must be aggressive on the defensive end, denying passes and preventing easy baskets.

Defense - Last, but certainly not least,  the Celtics must make defense a priority.  It's still true that defense wins championships and the Celtics must prevent the Knicks from getting easy baskets and open looks.   The bench especially must pick up their defense especially if they continue to struggle on the offensive end. 

Official Report
Mike Callahan
Callahan has officiated over 940+ regular season games, 65+ play-off games and 5 NBA Finals games in over 17 years as an NBA referee. Callahan is one of 4 refs to come out of Cardinal O'Hara High School in Pennsylvania. The other 3 are Joey Crawford, Ed Malloy and Tim Donaghy. The Celtics are 3-0 this season and 8-2 over their last 10 games with Callahan officiating. He has let them play in the 3 games that he has officiated and hasn't shown a bias either way. His home W/L record this season is 41-25.

Derrick Collins
Collins has been an official in the league for 9 years. He has experience in the CBA five years and in the WNBA three years. He has also officiated 7 years on the collegiate level and seven years on the high school level in California and Louisiana. The Celtics are 2-3 with Collins this season and 6-4 in their last 10 games. In all 5 games this season, the Celtics took fewer free throws than their opponents (Nets 24-8; Lakers 25-19; Kings 28-11; Pistons 20-18; Wizards 34-32). The Nets and Lakers games were particularly poorly officiated. His home W/L record this season is 40-29.

Ken Mauer
Mauer has been a referee since the 1986-87 season and has officiated over 1,200+ regular season games, 70+ play-off games and 4 NBA Finals games. Mauer is very quick to call technicals and in one game, once ejected Doc less than 3 minutes into a game, and that was before the new "Respect the Game" rules. In a recent Timberwolves game he might have set the record by calling 5 technicals in a 10 second span. Mauer was one of the refs charged with tax evasion and obstructing federal tax laws for receiving substantial taxable income from 1989 through 1994 and failing to declare it. He was one of the refs in the controversial Miami/Dallas Finals where the foul calls were totally lopsided, giving the Heat the title. In a Suns/OKC game this season, Mauer told Zabian Dowdell not to be a bitch about the calls. Dowdell asked him if he'd say that off the court and Mauer ejected him from the game for it. For the most part the games he has called this season for the Celtics have been well officiated. The Celtics are 5-1 this season and 8-2 in their last 10 games with Mauer officiating. His home W/L record is 39-27.

Sean Wright (Alternate)
Wright's first season in the league was 2005-06. Before he started his career in the NBA he spent 4 years in the officiating in the NBDL, and also officiating in college and high school level. Hopefully Wright isn't needed in this game. He is from New York City and grew up a Knicks fan. The Celtics are 3-1 this season and 6-4 in their last 10 with Wright on the court. The loss this season was the game vs Chicago where the Bulls shot 35 free throws to 22 for the Celtics. At one point just after the half, Derrick Rose alone had almost doubled the Celtics free throws as a team. The Knicks are 3-1 this season and 3-7 in their last 10 games with Wright. His home W/L record is 43-25.

Injuries and Officials
If Stoudemire and Billups can't go in this game, it makes it easier and harder for the Celtics. The Celtics will have easier matchups and the Knicks will definitely be weaker, but we all have seen the Celtics give a sub-par effort in games where the other team's stars were missing.  If they are out, the Celtics still must play with the same intensity as if they were on the floor.   So far, the officials haven't been too bad in this series, in spite of what the Knicks fans say.  Hopefully this continues in this game.  But you never know when Herr Stern will decide that this series needs to go longer and give the Knicks a hand.