By Max Marcilla
Knicks 90 Celtics 97
At the end of the half, things were bad for the Knicks. New York had been averaging just fewer than 12 turnovers per game in the first three matches in the series. Today was a different story, as they had 12 turnovers in the first half. In addition to their sloppy ball handling and passing, the Knicks were shooting atrociously. A team that was without their second best scorer J.R Smith due to a NBA suspension was flat offensively. They shot under 30% in the first half, including Carmelo Anthony who shot 20% from the field.
The Boston Celtics were playing at a feverish pace to save their season in this elimination game. They came out in the second half strong, increasing their 19 point halftime lead to 20 with 8 minutes left.
With grit and determination the Knicks completely turned the game around. The Knicks slowly chipped away at the lead. When Carmelo Anthony, who was still struggling with his shot, exited the game with 3:34 in the third quarter, the Knicks were down by 14. Iman Shumpert replaced Anthony, and after 2 three-pointers, a lay-up by Raymond Felton and another by Shumpert, the Knicks were down by 6 with 5 seconds left in the third.
After a missed shot by Paul Pierce, Felton got the ball, dribbled up the court and drilled a deep three-pointer, capping of a superb third quarter for him, as they reduced the lead to just 3.
After a back-and-forth fourth quarter, the Knicks were left in a familiar situation, tied with Boston, with 18 seconds left and the ball in Paul Pierces hands. Luckily for the Knicks, Pierce had a rare game-winning miss, resulting in the game going into overtime. As Melo continued to struggle (missing two critical FT’s), the Knicks went on to lose by 7 because of 7 unanswered points to end the period by Jason Terry.
While the first half was terrible, I (along with the majority of Knick fans, analyzers, and “experts”) believe the second half of Knick basketball is what will be seen throughout the playoffs.
Raymond Felton was amazing today. He brought the Knicks back into the game, and orchestrated the offense to one of their most successful stretches of the season in the 3rd period. Felton was passing, distributing assists to open teammates, and played defense very well on everyone he guarded. Felton, in my opinion, was the best player in this game on both sides of the court. He had the best stat line in the game (27 points, 3 assists, 3 steals).
Iman Shumpert had one of his best games of the season. Shumpert struggled early on, missing his first three shots, but in the second half he was incredible. Shumpert pick-pocketed multiple Celtics, having flashbacks of his pre-knee injury days, when he was a superstar on the defensive end of the floor. He also moved the ball well, grabbed a season high 12 rebounds and was lock-down on defense, when he wasn’t stealing the ball. Everyone knows that defense wins championships, and the way Shumpert played in the second half made the Knicks faithful believe that he can help the Knicks go deep in the playoffs.
Lastly, the one obvious negative was Carmelo Anthony. He had one of his worst games in a Knick uniform, as he missed 2 free throws down the stretch and shot 10-35 from the field. This was a RARE game for Anthony. The MVP candidate has had some bad shooting games, but never like tonight with the whole world watching. Anthony missed a few shots down the stretch, including a final rushed three in overtime, a look that he would usually make. I don’t think (or hope) this trend continues, and hopefully when J.R Smith comes back, it will take the load off of Anthony to be the lone offensive weapon for New York.
The Knicks will play in a game 5 on Wednesday from Madison Square Garden. Even though they are returning as the losers of game 4, the Knicks have to feel great. They were 5 minutes away from completing the greatest comeback in Knicks playoff history, without one of their best players.
I expect the Knicks to play like they did in the first three games, including the second half of this game: Outstanding and tough on defense. Winning the series in 5 games (which was my original prediction).