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Monday, April 25, 2011

Celtics sweep the Knicks

Thanks to injuries (to Chauncey Billups and Amare Stoudemire) and their usual lack of defense, the New York Knicks quickly morphed from first-round playoff threat to pushover in the span of a week.

That's what makes yesterday's 101-89 win by the Boston Celtics so meaningful. By sweeping the Knicks at Madison Square Garden, the Celts were able to become the only NBA team to sweep a first-round series in 2011.

While the Heat, Bulls, Lakers and Spurs are all still battling, the Cs will have their feet up at home, getting plenty of rest ahead of what should be a war of a series against Miami in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Believe it or not, Boston hadn't swept a first-round series since a crippled Larry Bird was still balling (in 1992 vs. Indiana) so it had been a while.

The Celts were focused yesterday to get the series over with and not have to exert anymore energy. They built a 23-point lead and started to coast before New York made one last desperate run that cut it to four points in the fourth quarter.

From there, Boston settled down by hitting shots and making some stops. Goodnight New York, your fraudulent magical season is over. Have a great summer.

Kevin Garnett led the Celtics with a team-high 26 points and 12 rebounds. Rajon Rondo added 21 points, 12 assists and five rebounds. Ray Allen scored 14 points and Paul Pierce notched 13 points.

The key to the Game 4 win though and moving forward will be the bench trio of Glen Davis (14 points, 5 rebounds), Jeff Green (5 points, 7 rebounds) and Delonte West (2 points, 5 rebounds).

Other than Rondo, Boston's main advantage over Miami lies in their bench. Those three guys need to take their games to another level. Yesterday was as a start in the right direction as Davis started hitting shots again while Green and West were out there for important minutes.

Carmelo Anthony led New York with a game-high 32 points and nine rebounds. Stoudemire added 19 points and 12 rebounds (props to him for playing with a hurt back). Anthony Carter was a spark off the bench with 11 points. Thankfully Knicks head coach Mike Dantoni is a clown and playing Carter over the underwhelming and out of position Toney Douglas didn't click in his mind until crunch time of the elimination game. Good job Mike.

Boston led 29-23 after the first quarter and 55-38 at halftime. Like in Game 3, the Celtics really didn't give MSG much to cheer about, effectively taking out the crowd that was desperate for something to cheer about. The Knicks started their comeback with a big third quarter (34-27) before they fell short in the fourth (19-17 Boston).

For the game, the Celtics shot 49.4% to 34.1% for the Knicks. New York made five more 3-pointers (8-3) and three more free throws (21-18). Boston grabbed 11 more rebounds (53-42), five more assists (24-19) and two more steals (6-4).

Now let's all sit back and root for the Philadelphia 76ers to keep winning. The Eastern Conference semifinals won't begin until probably next Sunday at the earliest.

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