The New York Knicks are hosting the Boston Celtics in a crucial Game 2 of their first-round series in the 2013 NBA playoffs.
Players on both sides are heading into this pivotal Eastern Conference contest knowing that a win could be the difference between advancing to the next round and going home, so the stakes are higher than usual.
While the Knickerbockers were victorious in the first game, they can’t expect to hold the C’s to just 25 second-half points again. They’ll need to execute better on offense, as Boston is too proud and talented to falter down the stretch in a second consecutive matchup.
Let’s take a look at what else you need to watch for in this exciting showdown on Tuesday evening.
Kevin Garnett’s Offense
KG had a golden opportunity against a thin, injury-depleted New York frontcourt on Sunday but failed to capitalize and scored a meager eight points on 4-of-12 shooting.
While his defense and rebounding were top-notch (as usual), he has to step up if the C’s are going to have a chance to even the series.
Garnett not only has to choose his shots better, as many of those missed attempts weren’t good looks at the basket, but his teammates must also find him in better positions to score.
The ball-handlers have to create and look early and often to the low post, where The Big Ticket will be able to do damage against a banged-up Tyson Chandler, Kenyon Martin, a defensively inept Carmelo Anthony, an undersized Chris Copeland and any of the other Knicks bigs.
Should he be able to get it done and pile in some baskets, the C’s will have a good chance of stealing one at Madison Square Garden.
Kenyon Martin’s Production
It’s mind-boggling that K-Mart wasn’t on an NBA roster this season until the Knicks scooped him up in late February.
His impact was certainly felt when he played for an extremely important 28 minutes in Game 1, especially with Chandler clearly not feeling 100 percent healthy.
During that time, Martin scored 10 points—including the game-clinching basket off a pick-and-roll pass from Anthony—grabbed nine boards and blocked two shots.
If it weren’t for his presence off the bench, the Knicks likely would have lost that game and been chewed up in the paint.
We’ll have to see if that sort of production from the 13-year veteran was a fluke or something that coach Mike Woodson can depend on. I'm leaning toward the latter and bet K-Mart will become an important part of the Knicks’ rotation in this series.
Contributions from Boston’s Bench
While rotations tighten up and the starters are generally counted on for more production in the playoffs, Boston will be swept if its bench doesn’t step up soon.
In Game 1, Jordan Crawford, Courtney Lee and Jason Terry combined to give the C’s four points—on 0-of-7 shooting from the field and 0-of-5 from three-point land—grabbed six rebounds, recorded one steal and blocked one shot in 51 minutes of play.
Those sort of nonexistent contributions are simply unacceptable, and coach Doc Rivers will need to make some adjustments in a hurry if things are going to turn around in this series.
If he’s going to continue playing the three guards off the bench, they’ll have to prove their worth by knocking down some shots, generating a few buckets off assists and pressuring the Knicks’ second unit into coughing up some turnovers.
Should they fail to achieve those attainable goals, the Celtics are going to be in a world of trouble on Tuesday night.