The last time New York was up three games to nothing in a playoff series, a series only consisted of five games back in 2000, against the Toronto Raptors. New York has displayed stellar defense throughout the series, including tonight with a 90-76 victory over the Boston Celtics.
As soon as it seemed to begin going in New York’s favor, the foot remained on the petal for the rest of the first half, holding the Celtics to 31 points after two quarters of basketball. Pablo Prigioni gave the starting lineup an enormous lift out of the gate and has a definite impact on the game now that he is healthy, which has been displayed all throughout April. Prigs hit three three-pointers in the first half finishing the game with nine points, while preventing the ball from sticking on anyone for too long.
Boston opened the game with momentum, as expected, but the Knicks didn’t let the Celtics hang around for long leading by five after the first, and 47-31 by halftime. Anthony did struggle starting the game, but not for long going 7-12 in the second half after 5-13 in the first. Paul Pierce has steadily disappeared throughout the series, and continued to be invisible tonight, shooting 40% from the field. If you ask me, tonight was the nail in the coffin of the big Pierce-Garnett era in Boston.
Kevin Garnett quietly grabbed 17 rebounds in 34 minutes, way more of an impact than he’s had in the first two games. But Boston hasn’t been able to get any consistency out of any of their players in the same game. 17 turnovers also didn’t help out an offensive-depleted Celtics team that surrendered 11 fast break points. JR Smith was ejected on a flagrant two foul five minutes into the fourth quarter for elbowing Jason Terry in the head. Smith finished with 15 points in 24 minutes. Steve Novak looked like he finally learned how to hit a shot in playoff basketball with two difficult three pointers; we even got the see the Discount Triple Check in a playoff game! When reserves like Novak are able to contribute, the Knicks are extremely difficult to beat.
The Knicks will look to complete their first sweep since 2000 Sunday afternoon. A sweep of the Boston Celtics would mark the beginning of a new era in the Atlantic Division. Boston’s core is aged, while the rest of their team is covered by inexperienced youth. It would also give a HUGE momentum boost to New York heading into a probable second round matchup vs. Indiana. The practice time and rest between a quick round could be the perfect time to implement Amar’e Stoudemire into the rotation for the second round, assuming he stands where he tells us he is health-wise. I’m sure the Knicks aren’t even looking that far ahead from what they’ve displayed this year.