Celtics-Knicks Live: Paul Pierce, C’s Crumble in Second Half Again as Knicks Take 2-0 Series Lead

Kenyon Martin, Courtney Lee LiveblogFinal, Knicks 87-71: After the Celtics collapsed in the fourth quarter of Game 1, scoring just eight points in the final 12 minutes, many people said the Celtics could not play any worse than they did in that second half.

They almost did in Game 2.

Behind 34 points scored by Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks lit it up on offense and shut down the Celtics on defense to take a 2-0 series lead. The Knicks held the Celtics to 23 points on 19 percent shooting — seriously, NINETEEN PERCENT — to run away from the Celtics once again down the stretch.

The Celtics got 18 points from Paul Pierce and 12 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks from Kevin Garnett, but both players dealt with foul trouble. They each finished with five personal fouls, limiting their aggressiveness on both ends of the court.

Fourth quarter, 6:10, Knicks 84-69: Of all the things Mike Woodson has accomplished this season, reining in Garnett in the first two games of this series is among his greatest achievements.

Garnett has a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds, plus two blocks, but he has had a rough time here. He was sent to the bench with five fouls, which would help as a quick rest but he may not even be needed at this point. The Knicks do not look like they are letting this one slip away.

Fourth quarter, 9:15, Knicks 76-67: Jordan Crawford is the type of guy who can shoot his team back into a game, and he is trying to now. A couple baskets by the Xavier product, who has five of Boston’s last eight points, has the Celtics within nine with nine minutes to go.

Remember, this has been a game of runs. It remains to be seen whether this is the start of a big one for the Celtics or the end of a relatively minor one.

End of third quarter, Knicks 74-59: It was pretty shocking when the Celtics only mustered eight points in the fourth quarter of Game 1, but they came mighty close to beating that in this third quarter.

With about two minutes left in the quarter, the Celtics had been outscored 26-6 and baskets were at a premium. They did manage to almost double their production in the final minutes, getting up to 11 points to avoid another ignominious 12 minutes.

They could not do much about the Knicks, though. With Anthony’s 13 points leading the way, the Knicks dropped 32 points in the quarter and shot 71 percent while holding Boston to 22 percent. Yeah, it was not pretty.

Third quarter, 2:56, Knicks 68-54: The Celtics do not have any answer for Anthony or Felton, and it has trickled down to the offensive end. The Knicks are scoring so easily, the Celtics have not gotten a true transition chance all quarter. Garnett is hamstrung by his four fouls as the Knicks continue to hold him in foul trouble in this series. There really is no better way to beat the Celtics than to limit Garnett’s ability to be aggressive on D.

Third quarter, 5:29, Knicks 62-52: The NBA Playoffs, where Brandon Bass being the best defensive player on the floor and Raymond Felton being unstoppable offensively happen.

With Bass continuing to make all the hustle and defensive plays, Felton is ballin’ on O. The Knicks point guard shook up Terry to hit a short pull-up baby-hook over the veteran guard to give the Knicks a double-digit lead.

Third quarter, 8:49, Knicks 52-50: The latest run belongs to the Knicks, who have capitalized on the Celtics’ first real cold stretch of the game. Felton, who can create all kinds of problems as a pick-and-roll ballhandler, toasted Pierce and Garnett for a driving layup to force the Celtics to call timeout and talk it over.

Halftime, Celtics 48-42: A turnover and an ugly double-pump miss to end the first half aside, Pierce is playing with a purpose. After a rough first quarter, Pierce is up to 10 points that came the hard way against a series of New York defenders. He is struggling with his footing, but has only been called for one traveling violation — much to the chagrin of the New York fans.

Pierce is the only Boston player in double figures, while Anthony holds a game-high 15. But Anthony is just 3-for-11 from the field, meaning Pierce is not the only go-to guy struggling early.

If the Celtics could just keep the Knicks off the free throw line, their advantage could be even more than six points. The Celtics are lighting up the nets by shooting 56 percent from the floor, while the Knicks are just 38 percent. But the Knicks are 10-for-15 from the line compared to 6-for-9 for the Celtics.

Second quarter, 2:44, Celtics 44-37: This has been a game of runs, and the Celtics are clicking.

Pierce hooked up with Green on a halfcourt alley-oop that just summed up how things are humming right along for Boston. That highlight came after Pierce and Green both hit heavily contested jump shots to help the Celtics extend their lead.

Pierce and Green’s hot shooting helped offset Terry finally missing a three after making three straight attempts. Smith and Anthony will not go quietly, but the Celtics are rolling right now.

Second quarter, 7:46, Celtics 31-27: Who brought this version of Terry? The guy currently wearing No. 4 in green is playing nothing like the player who occupied that jersey for most of the season. He caught nothing but nylon on a triple — his second of the game — to complete an 11-0 run that thrust the Celtics into the lead.

We will investigate who this guy is, and why he is hitting shots, and get back to you.

Second quarter, 10:17, Knicks 27-20: Well, not a whole lot has happened. Maybe that was part of the problem, because close to two minutes into the second quarter, with a free throw by Smith amounting to all the scoring, Knicks coach Mike Woodson called for a timeout.

Smith and Anthony have combined for 18 points, but the Knicks have not gotten much from the rest of their team. This is the Knicks’ chance to put some distance between them and the Celtics, so Woodson may want to re-assert that the Knicks, who are on a 12-0 run, need to keep it up.

End of first quarter, Knicks 26-20: The first 12 minutes swung back-and-forth wildly, so the ending made perfect sense.

Crawford, who seems to have displaced Courtney Lee in the rotation, looked silly on a crossover step-back jumper by Smith. Then, after Pierce inexplicably tossed the ball into the front row, Smith took the ball back upcourt with less than five seconds left to drain a three over Crawford at the buzzer.

Lee’s disappearance is puzzling. He did tend to fall asleep at times on defense in April, but so did everyone on the Celtics. He and Garnett were one of the Celtics’ top defensive pairings in the regular season, but it looks like Lee is no more than the fifth guard — if Pierce now counts as a guard in the Celtics’ new starting lineup.

First quarter, 1:39, Celtics 20-17: J.R. Smith started out hot, hitting a pair of step-back jumpers right off the bench. Since then, the Celtics’ own jumpstarters responded.

Jason Terry and Jordan Crawford both drilled 3-pointers to help the Celtics pull into the lead, helping spread the floor for Pierce and Green, who have been aggressive. Basically, Pierce and Green are isolating against whichever defender faces a mismatch, and although they are only 3-for-8 from the field combined, they are sending a message.

First quarter, 5:08, Knicks 13-9: This game has been called ridiculously tight in the opening minutes, resulting in nine fouls between the two sides. Garnett picked up an early two and had to go to the bench, giving Chris Wilcox the first playoff action of his career.

Wilcox’ appearance did not last long, though, as Rivers opted to go with Bass as his big man in Boston’s small lineup. Bass has been one of the few Celtics immune to the team’s malaise of the last month, as his defense on Anthony was a key factor in the Celtics keeping Game 1 close.

Still, there are trade-offs. The Knicks have three offensive rebounds, giving them three extra shots in the early going. That pretty much makes up the Knicks’ advantage right now, as the Knicks are once again shooting a worse percentage than Boston from the field.

7:27 p.m.: For all the talk about the Knicks’ age, nothing served as the punchline like Pablo Prigioni, the 35-year-old rookie.

Prigioni, the Argentina-born point guard who is one of the greatest players in Spanish league history, missed Game 1 with a sprained ankle. He is expected to be back in the starting lineup, as he has been 18 times this season, for Game 2.

The projected starters appear below.

Celtics
Kevin Garnett
Brandon Bass
Jeff Green
Paul Pierce
Avery Bradley

Knicks
Tyson Chandler
Carmelo Anthony
Iman Shumpert
Raymond Felton
Pablo Prigioni

6:07 p.m.: If the Celtics are looking for ways to improve — and we assume they are, seeing as they lost Game 1 — they can start with trying to score more than eight points in the fourth quarter and committing fewer than 21 turnovers in Game 2.

Those were the shocking numbers from Saturday’s loss, when the Celtics were right in the game but squandered several late chances to win the game. Carmelo Anthony’s 36 points looked gaudy, but that was a great start and a strong finish sandwiched around a rough middle. (He was 4-for-13 in the second and third quarters.)

If the Celtics make Anthony’s life difficult again while holding New York to just 40 percent shooting, they could even this series — provided they take care of business in the scoring and turnover areas.

8 a.m. ET: After pulling off the seemingly impossible by scoring just eight points in the fourth quarter of a loss in Game 1, the Celtics look to do something much less jaw-dropping in Game 2 by winning the game.

Jeff Green, who scored 26 points, and Carmelo Anthony, who dropped a game-high 36 points, were the clear stars of Game 1. But Celtics coach Doc Rivers was immensely impressed with Brandon Bass, who he said played nearly a perfect game with 10 rebounds and excellent defense on Anthony. The Celtics need more of that from Bass, plus similar improved defensive efforts from his teammates, to have a shot of slowing down Anthony in Game 2.

The Knicks will have something to celebrate as well now that J.R. Smith is newly minted as the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year. Smith had 15 points on Sunday, but the Celtics were able to hold him to 1-for-7 shooting on 3-pointers, helping keep them in the game into the closing moments.

Join us for updates and analysis during the game, which tips off at 8 p.m. ET.

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