Easter Famine: Celtics end series, Knicks’ season
On an Easter Sunday that had New York praying for its own basketball resurrection, Boston’s sweep-clinching 101-89 win instead sent the Knicks back to an untimely tomb – and into a summer that will pose as many questions as fond looks forward.
Will Chauncey be resigned? Donnie Walsh? Will Mike D’Antoni be patrolling the Garden sidelines next season? What are the Knicks’ draft priorities? What about the six players whose contracts are up? Can we expect improvement from TD and Fields?
All questions that will be answered in due time. Today, it’s about licking wounds, what-ifs, and attempts at perspective – something that’s not always easy to summon after a four-game sweep.
As he had been throughout the series, Carmelo Anthony was the Knicks’ only semi-reliable option, finishing with 32 points on 10-24 shooting and nine rebounds.
Anthony averaged 26 points, 10.3 rebounds and 4.8 assists for the series, leading the Knicks in all three categories. And while his 51% TS% certainly left much to be desired, his game 2 performance alone – “possessed” is a term that comes immediately to mind – left little question what kind of weapon he can be, given more time under D’Antoni’s tutelage.
Despite more Celtic double teams on Melo, the Knicks were unable to make Boston pay from the outside, finishing just 8-27 from behind the arc. It was the fitting statistical end to a series in which the Knicks netted an underwhelming eFG% of just 43%. The Celtics, meanwhile, finished just a hair under 50.
Amar’e Stoudemire, whom many thought would err on the side of caution and sit out New York’s swan song entirely, gutted through a horrendous first half (not to mention a few untimely fourth quarter turnovers) to finish with 19 points and 12 rebounds.
Toney Douglas again struggled to find his groove, finishing with a team low -14 to go along with six points, three rebounds and just two assists in 23 minutes.
Anthony Carter’s second half spark helped make up for TD’s lackluster play – he scored 7 straight points during a key fourth quarter stretch – but it wasn’t nearly enough to make up for a point guard deficit as glaring in this game as it’s been all series, as Rajon Rondo posted yet another sparkling stat line with 21 points, 12 assists and five rebounds.
Like Game 3’s more convincing blowout, the Knicks once again put up a horrific first half stat line, shooting 22% and falling behind 55-38 at the break.
For a while it looked like the Knicks might end up bookending with boos a weekend that started with an energy and enthusiasm not seen in the Garden in years, particularly when they fell behind by 23 early in the third.
Instead, they would make one final push, cutting the Celtic lead to four mid-way through the fourth. But key baskets by Boston’s Big Three down the stretch – coupled with a questionable charging call negating a potential three point play by Shawne Williams that would’ve cut the lead to two – kept the ‘Bockers at bay.
Hobbled, harried and humbled, the Knicks’ last stand wasn’t lost on the Garden crowd, who thanked their heroes with a classy chorus of cheers as the final buzzer sounded. In a series where almost everything seemed to go wrong for the orange and blue, it was a welcome showing of perspective and appreciation — one that will do more than any press clipping or highlight reel in proving to our two new stars that they brought their talents to the right place.
Only a week ago, many saw a series destined to go the distance. Instead, the Celtics laid bare exactly how far these New York Knicks have to go before the mantle of Eastern Conference contender can be theirs.
Still, for Knick fans, the fact that there’s a mantle to grab at all will no doubt become a prospect as welcome as the challenge of seizing it.
Beyond his work for KnickerBlogger, Jim is a contributor to the New York Times Off the Dribble NBA blog, ESPN.com, and The Classical. He is currently working on a biography of Robert Silverman, titled "Clownin' and Astoundin.'" Follow him on Twitter @JPCavan.