By Matt Noonan
The Boston Celtics avoided a possible Game 5 at the TD Garden and brought their broomsticks to Madison Square Garden on Sunday, so they could officially beat the Knicks and move onto round two of the NBA playoffs.
However, was this game totally in their control? That’s certainly debatable, as New York attempted to do whatever they could to remain in contention during all four quarters.
Although, despite their valiant effort and Carmelo Anthony’s attempted comeback, the Celtics ended their first round series with a 101-89 win and officially move onto face either Miami or Philadelphia.
Here are our Noontime Sports notes and reflections from Sunday’s win.
*Consider this series sweep a “NBA omen” for the Celtics, but also, Shaquille O’Neal, who didn’t record a single minute against New York. Will he play against Miami or Philadelphia remains a “hot-button” issue, although, neither the Heat nor Sixers have a solid “big-man” that could certainly challenge the Celtics offense, so if Shaq needs another round of rest, I’d say, let it happen. Danny Ainge acquired the Big Shamrock for one reason, which was so he could win one more championship before he retires, so again, having a few extra days of rest won’t be the worst thing.
*Glen Davis certainly snapped out of his “funk,” as he led the bench with 14 points and recorded five rebounds. Davis is indeed one of their more important role players on the Celtics roster because he is expected to secure multiple rebounds on both offense and defense, as well as tally roughly 10-15 points a game. Don’t consider Davis the next coming of Bill Russell or Robert “The Chief” Parish, but hopefully Sunday’s game was a turning point. Also, expect Davis to continue playing roughly 25-30 minutes in round two.
* Kevin Garnett led the team with 26 points and 10 rebounds, which is great, but also a sign that the “Big Ticket” is slowly transforming himself into postseason form. During the first three games of the series, Garnett scored 36 points and pulled down 35 rebounds, which is indeed, typical Garnett, but can he continue this trend going forward? We shall see, but after watching the way he played against the Knicks, it certainly seems like he is incredibly focused and wants to return to the NBA Finals.
* The Celtics defense appeared stagnant through the first two quarters, but eventually ratcheted up their pressure during the second half. They allowed Carmelo Anthony to score 32 points and Amare Stoudemire 19 points. The Knicks turned the ball over 14 times, but also couldn’t compete with Boston on the defensive glass. The Celtics tallied 44 defensive rebounds, which certainly demonstrated the fact that head coach Doc Rivers must have made some changes at halftime.
* Continuing with the defensive theme, expect Rivers and his coaching staff to make sure his defense is ready for their next opponent. Defense was what helped the Celtics earn Banner 17 in ’08, so if the Celtics want to advance to the Eastern Conference for the third time in four seasons, they better play defense.
* Finally, the Boston Celtics recorded their first playoff series sweep since the 1985-1986 season, when they swept the Chicago Bulls in round one, three games to none.