The Boston Celtics enter Game 2 in Madison Square Garden with plenty of reason to believe they can tie the series at one game apiece. Boston held the Knicks to 85 points in the first game, but their lack of offensive punch was on display. The Celtics made only 27 of their 65 field goals but lost by just eight points -- a margin that can easily be overcome if they tighten up their offensive decision-making and take advantage of the Knicks' defense.
New York's half-court defense focused on Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, but Boston can take advantage of the Knicks' overcommitment by slowing down the remaining "big two." Here are a few areas that Boston can exploit the Knicks and open up their offense.
The Pierce-Garnett pick and roll
Boston needs to force the Knicks' defense to work in the pick and roll. Without Rajon Rondo, the Celtics' dribble penetration isn't strong enough to collapse the defense, but the Pierce-Garnett pick and roll had favorable results, and should be run more if only to put pressure on the Knicks' defense to make decisions.
A simple high screen from Garnett to open up Pierce.
Garnett draws both defenders regardless. Chandler, New York's only rim protector in this lineup, is still at the arc. The Celtics got what they want out of this play.
Garnett elects to take the layup at the rim but misses. Still, Garnett took a high-percentage shot over smaller defenders, and also had the option of kicking it out to his teammates in the corners.
With the Knicks electing to keep Chandler back instead of pressuring the ball-handler, he has to help Jason Kidd, who falls behind because of the screen. It may not always result in an easy basket like this, but it's a great way to probe the Knicks' defense and expose their off-ball defense deficiencies.
Take advantage with Jeff Green
Jeff Green put in a team-high 26 points and Boston will have to continue relying on his ability to deliver offense. He was also the only player for the Celtics who was able to stretch the floor, going three-of-five from beyond the arc.
Here, Boston is going to take advantage of the Knicks' defense which has all eyes on Pierce at the top of the arc. With J.R. Smith defending him, New York is ready to pounce and provide help.
The Knicks try to recover, but Green's look was clean and he drains the corner three.
The Knicks' lack of wing defenders to match up with Boston when both Green and Pierce are on the floor is an area that Boston needs to attack. Here, Green has Smith isolated on the wing and is going to overpower him to the rim.
With Green backing Smith down, Felton moves over to help. This is dangerous for the Knicks, as it creates great floor spacing for the Celtics starting with Pierce at the top of the arc. Even if the Knicks recover on Pierce, he can swing it around the around the arc. Still, New York doesn't necessarily have to double-down if Green isn't a threat.
But he was in Game 1, and he will need to be again. If the Knicks are going to stick smaller defenders on Green, he must take control of the matchup for Boston.
The Knicks have Iman Shumpert on Green here, and he's going to barrel through the smaller defender.
It's worth noting that because Garnett is still able to stretch the floor, the Knicks have nobody at the rim who can protect against dribble penetration.
Shumpert can't hold out on the drive and Green gets an easy layup without a Knicks defender in range to contest.
If Green is going, the Knicks will need to decide where to match Anthony up. Do they trust Smith and the team defense to dig in against Pierce, or will they relent and allow Green to have the mismatches? If it's option No. 2, Green and the Celtics' offense need to attack and make the Knicks pay for it.
Off-ball execution and Avery Bradley
The amount of attention the Knicks are giving Pierce and Garnett could be classified as overkill as they dare the remaining Celtics to beat them. As long as Boston recognizes this, they can hurt the Knicks off-ball throughout the game, especially with Bradley.
Felton is ball-watching as Garnett has the ball in the post and Bradley is going to cut to the rim. Garnett already has his eye on the play.
Smith tries to cut off the driving lane, but it's too late as Bradley drives.
Bradley lays it in without any contest at the rim. Felton observes from a distance.
This is another byproduct of the Knicks overcommitting to stopping anything and everything involving Pierce or Garnett. Once again, Felton is caught sleeping and Bradley repeats the cut. This is especially poor because just 30 seconds prior the Celtics did the exact same thing with Bradley. The above play took place one offensive possession prior for Boston.
Bradley drives into the paint again while Felton watches.
Bradley gets by the defense and eats up another layup.
Another example of the Knicks' defense losing track of someone without Pierce or Garnett on the back as Bradley gets a dunk out of the same cut we've been looking at.
It's not just cutting to the rim off-ball that can work for Boston, however.
Again, Felton helps and takes his attention away from Bradley. If the Knicks are going to throw all of this extra defense at a player in this position, the Celtics must continue exploiting it.
Garnett dumps it to Bradley, who sinks the mid-range jumper.
This play brings full circle how Boston can attack. Pierce has the ball here and has Martin switched onto him. Because Anthony is defending Green in the corner, Boston has another mismatch to take advantage of. Keep an eye on Smith, who is matched up with Bradley.
Smith is already getting ready to help on the outmatched Martin. Bradley is getting ready to step into what will be an open jumper.
Pierce finally fully draws both defenders and kicks it out.
Another easy basket.
The Knicks' defense is susceptible to breakdowns, especially off-ball, and the Celtics already showed they can take advantage of those lapses. Plenty went wrong for Boston in Game 1, yet it remained close, and if they attack the Knicks as outlined above they should be able to avoid another eight-point quarter.
If Green continues to be able to step up as the third option on offense, especially when against smaller defenders, then the pressure is off Garnett and Pierce to carry the team, and New York's strategy to give them extra attention can play into Boston's favor.
- Game film provided by MySynergySports.com