The Celtics drew national accolades with a 113-96 win over the Knicks in Game 3 at Madison Square Garden Friday night. In what was supposed to be the first test of the playoffs, the Celtics faced a hostile crowd at MSG and put on a clinic. Finally, the Celtics were back.
But loyal Celtics fans will tell you their team never left. The Celtics blew up on offense in Game 3, hitting 14 of 24 3-pointers and shooting 50.6 percent from the field overall. On defense, however, it was more of the same: Boring, monotonous, dominance. So played.
Knicks fans and Celtics doubters will point to New York being shorthanded in the Celtics’ 4-0 sweep. Chauncey Billups was out and Amar’e Stoudemire was banged up. The Knicks could have used both of them.
Coming into the series, New York had won seven of eight games. In those games, they scored 113, 120, 123, 131, 97, 116, 110, and 90 points. In four games against the Celtics, the Knicks scored 85, 93, 96, and 89 points. Their high game — in Game 3, where the Celtics got all the praise — was 10 points below their season average of 106.5 points per game. In other words, the Celtics did their worst when everyone said they did their best.
Maybe the Knicks were unlucky in four games vs. the Celtics. Maybe the No. 1 defensive team in the NBA over 82 games (Kendrick Perkins played in 12 of those games, started in seven) caught a break and got four bad games from the team in New York.
Seems unlikely, though. Seems like maybe we should start mentioning defense in a discussion of the Celtics’ chances going forward.