Wednesday, April 20, 2011

2011 NBA Playoffs Notebook-Knicks, Celtics

New York Knicks reserve shooting guard Bill Walker shot an astounding 0-11 (0-5 3pt), eliciting memories of one John Starks, who is a former teammate of current Boston head chief Doc Rivers, and his 2-18 (0-11 3pt) blitzkrieg on the iron in Game 7 of the 1994 NBA Finals versus eventual champion Houston Rockets. The silver lining in Bill Walker’s box score last night, interestingly enough, is his whopping +10—a number that determines how a player’s team performs while he is in the game.

This means his teammates were able to either will themselves to a +10 advantage, despite Walker’s presence on the court, or his teammates benefited from his effort on the defensive end, an area on the floor where numbers do not always tell the story. Maybe this anomaly is just another example of how players can affect the game without even attempting a shot (imagine how well the Knicks would have fared had Walker not even shot a 3-pointer).

Or, this tidbit of trivia is a microcosm of what this series has become—a paradox wrapped in a riddle smothered with extra irony…please hold the cheese (too late?).

The Knicks played without veteran point guard Chauncey Billups for the final minutes of Game 1 and all of Game 2, and lost their leading scorer from Game 1 and low-post presence Amare Stoudemire for the entire second half of Game 2. These injuries forced Knicks All-Star Carmelo Anthony to shoulder the scoring load, a task he performed beautifully, scoring 42 points to compliment his 17 boards and six assists.

The problem with his breakout game is how comfortable Anthony seems to be with the overall outcome. This is not meant to diminish his effort. This is just an indicator of how much New York needs to learn. It is one thing to feel good about your team’s chances heading forward, while also alleviating some of the intense pressure off of your own back, but it is quite another thing to be happy about a 0-2 deficit just because you scorched your opponent on the offensive end. Great game Carmelo, but you guys just lost a second straight game that was yours for the taking. And foul next time, too.

Instead of returning to the Mecca with an insurmountable two-game advantage and the adulation of the entire basketball world, the Knicks face a must-win Game 3 against the defending conference champion whose confidence is truly emboldened from holding this series edge, if from nothing else at all.

After surviving the opening two games by the slightest of hairs, Gang Green may have established the foundation for an extended playoff run. There’s a phrase, something regarding the good fortune of a certain ethnicity, I do not recall exactly how it goes, but I’ll let you know when I remember. This saying best describes the Celts’ chances of advancing to the next round, and beyond. This is not to suggest that any success in the next two months would be due to pure luck, but only that they are extremely lucky to be up 2-0 now.

Thanks to some Big Apple sauce, Boston is flying high. Where they’re going is anyone’s guess. What they’ll find is debatable. But there is no denying the fact that all they want is the ultimate prize.

The question is: Does New York? Or will they be content only with fool’s gold?

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