The Boston Celtics are staring into the abyss. Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce weren't able to keep their team from losing the first two games to the Knicks, so now Boston returns home in desperate need of a win. to keep the hope alive. The Boston offense has stalled in the second half during both contests. The Celtics scored just 25 points in the second half of Game 1, and then 23 points over that span in Game 2. Will anything be different now that they are at home for Game 3 (8 p.m. ET, ESPN)?
The good news for Boston is that they posted a terrific 27-13 record at the TD Garden this year. The trip home should help from a confidence standpoint, and if Jeff Green can step up as a third option and Avery Bradley can create space with off-ball cuts during pick-and-roll action with Garnett and Pierce, things could go differently for the Celtics on Friday night. However, the team's balance on offense has been delicate, and if one person from that group isn't producing well it can become tough to score.
Celtics fans haven't been given a lot to cheer about in the playoffs this year, but Paul Flannery of SB Nation isn't ready to bury the team and it's veteran core just yet:
The temptation is to bury the Celtics and rev up the post-mortems. Time to think about that long-delayed Plan B and the tough choices that will inevitably come with the reconstruction. With another interminable two-day wait for Game 3, you can expect a rash of those types of stories. Knowing what we know they may even be justified. It certainly feels like they are. It has for more than a month now.
But I will not bury the Celtics yet. I will not bury them before they've played a home game because Garnett and Pierce deserve that much, at least. I will not bury them because these eyes have seen too much over the years. Friday's Game 3 will be yet another last stand and it's true that even their last stands are becoming more depressing. But it's still theirs to make, even if pride is all they have left.
Can Garnett step up for Boston?
Garnett has struggled to lead the Celtics with Pierce, averaging only 10 points and 10 rebounds per game through the series. Pierce has done his part as one of the last remaining, uninjured, pieces since the "big three" era and the pressure is on Garnett to help deliver a win in Boston. Garnett's 38 percent field goal percentage from the field is an 11 percent drop from his playoff run last season, and the second-lowest in his career.
Will Carmelo Anthony continue carrying New York?
Anthony is averaging 35 points per game through the series. Most notable? He's shooting 60 percent from beyond the arc on five three-point field goal attempts per game. Anthony, the NBA's 2012-2013 Scoring Champion, continues his dominant stretch of scoring after struggling with knee injuries in the middle of the season. Away from Madison Square Garden Anthony must continue being an effective primary scorer for the Knicks' offense.
Secondary punch power
Outside of Anthony, the Knicks' second-leading scorer is Sixth Man of the Year J.R. Smith, averaging 17 points per game through the series. Meanwhile, while the Celtics' offense hasn't been able to break more than 80 points yet in the series, Green has averaged 18 points per game. With no sign of the Celtics' offense suddenly turning around their offense Green must continue taking on the responsibility of scoring for Boston. Who will provide the better secondary scoring punch for their team, Smith or Green?
Game time: 8 p.m. ET
National TV: ESPN
Local TV: CSNE
Odds: Knicks favored 2.5, via Oddsshark.com