"Wait, don't pass it to Jeffr...NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! I hate my life."
The New York Knicks: This should've been a blowout, right? Chauncey Billups was in street clothes because of a strained knee and Amar''''''e Stoudemire logged only 18 minutes because of back spasms. As a result, Roger Mason was pulled out of mothballs and Jared Jeffries ended up playing clutch minutes for the Knicks.
That wasn't part of the plan.
But for the most part, none of that mattered, because Carmelo Anthony activated Beast Mode and nearly beat the Celtics single-handedly. Afterwards, Charles Barkley said Anthony had one of the greatest playoff performances he had ever seen. And man, I have to admit, it was up there.
'Melo tied his career playoff-high for points (42) and set a new career high for rebounds (17) while dishing out 6 assists and blocking two shots. He played 44 minutes and went 14-for-30 from the field, 4-for-8 from downtown and 10-for-11 from the line.
I know that 14-for-30 number may not look super impressive. It's not even 50 percent. But the degree of difficulty on some of those shots was off the charts. It's not like the Celtics weren't playing good defense. They absolutely were. I mean, the Knicks shot 35.6 percent as a team and bricked 17 of their 25 three-point attempts. And believe me, guys were contesting Anthony's shots. He just wouldn't miss. With 2:36 remaining and the game tied at 88-88, 'Melo went body-to-body with Paul Pierce, bounced off him and drilled a three with a hand way up in his face.
There's no defense for that.
Actually, you know what, that's not true. There is a defense for that and Boston coach Doc Rivers finally went to it: Aggressive double-teaming. Make somebody else beat you. And with 19 seconds, it almost happened, as Jeffries broke free for a layup that gave the Knicks a 93-92 lead.
A clutch bucket from Jared Jeffries? Yes. It happened.
The Celtics came out of a timeout and posted Garnett on Jeffries. New York's defense seemed to expect KG to pass back out to Pierce or Ray Allen. Or maybe the Knicks D just sucks. Whatever the case, Garnett easily backed Jeffries down and tossed in a hook shot to put the Celts back up one.
Honestly, the Knicks probably wanted KG taking that shot. He was 5-for-15 at the time and has a history of, uhm, testicular shrivel in crunch time.
Said Garnett: "I wasn't really in a nice rhythm. I just remained calm, went to a shot I knew I could make."
Admittedly, it's probably easy to remain calm when Jeffries -- and not Stoudemire -- is guarding you. Actually, it's probably easy to remain calm when either guys is guarding you, since neither of them can guard anyone. Anyway.
After a New York timeout, Boston's double-teaming tactic once again forced 'Melo to give up the rock, which went to Jeffries under the basket. Unfortunately for the Knicks, Jeffries was at a bad angle to attempt a shot, so he tried to dish to a cutting teammate. Physics being the bitch that it is, the pass couldn't phase through Garnett's hands. Both players went down but KG had possession and called timeout.
Jared fucking Jeffries.
Said Jeffries: "When I caught it my initial route was there, but I felt like KG was coming and closing down. I should have went ahead and shot the ball."
After the break, the ball was inbounded to Delonte West, who was fouled and hit both freebies. New York's final shot was a three-ball by Bill Walker, who channeled his inner John Starks and finished the night 0-for-11.
In fact, for the night, Knicks not named "Carmelo Anthony" combined to shoot 18-for-60 from the field. I'll save you calculator time and tell you that works out to a 30 percent conversion rate. Which would be a great batting average. Shitty shooting percentage, tho'.
Boston's rebounding: The Celtics really did play excellent initial defense...even on Anthony. But the Knicks absolutely killed them on the offensive glass. New York ripped down 20 offensive boards, and those second chances kept them in the game as much as 'Melo's heroics did.
New York's interior defense: Rajon Rondo, not exactly an offensive force, scored a team-high 30 points. According to ESPN Stats and Information, 22 of those points were scored inside five feet. Which mean's layups. According to the ESPN play-by-play, Rondo had 11 layups. He has six of those in the first quarter alone, and he scored three straight layups in the fourth.
Which forces me to ask the following question: If you know a guy can't shoot jumpers, why not lay back and, you know, force him to shoot jumpers?
Bill Walker: In 33 minutes, he went 0-for-11 from the field, including 0-for-5 from beyond the arc. Oddly enough, he finished with the best plus-minus score (+10) on his team. Meanwhile, none of New York's starters had a positive plus-minus. 'Melo was -5.
Carmelo Anthony, quote machine: "The Celtics didn't do anything special. They won two games on their home court. Now it's our turn to go to our home court and try to do the same thing."
The Atlanta Hawks: The Dirty Birds were once again tormented by Dwight Howard (48 minutes, 33 points, 19 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 blocked shot) but managed to put the clamps on his teammates. Dwight was 9-for-12 from the field. His support staff went 18-for-64, which means they played even worse than 'Melo's backups.
DWIGHT SMASH AGAIN!
But, despite holding the Magic to 34.6 percent shooting (including 5-for-23 from long range), the Hawks could not capitalize. They didn't help their cause by shooting 39.5 percent or going 7-for-20 on threes. Or getting outrebounded 52-39 and giving up 20 offensive rebounds. That was key. According to ESPN Stats and Information:
On the season, the Magic ranked 16th out of 30 teams in offensive rebound percentage, grabbing 26.1 percent of their missed shots. On Tuesday, the Magic grabbed 43.5 percent, their fourth highest mark of the season. After being down six points after the first quarter, the Magic took a 12-point lead into halftime, due to their ability to create extra opportunities and never trailed thereafter.
Another huge difference was Orlando's 36-17 advantage in free throw attempts. As usual, Howard got most of his squad's opportunities (19). Not as usual, he actually knocked down 15 of them. And, as a team, the Hawks were worse at the line than Dwight (11-for-17).
Ryan Anderson, possibly inflammatory quote machine: "Atlanta's a team that if things aren't really going their way, they're going to struggle a little bit. We're different in a sense where if we're down we kind of know how to fight our way back into it."
Stan Van Gundy, quote machine: "There's no matchup for him that creates the excitement. If you got back to when the centers were king, you have Chamberlain-Russell and people say 'Wow, that's a matchup you look forward to.' Now people look forward to Chris Paul against Derrick Rose. ... People have played good games against Dwight, but still, where's the anticipated matchup?"
Joe Johnson: The line: 14 points on 6-for-15 shooting. Remember: The Hawks will be paying him $25 million in 2015-16.
The Portland Frail Blazers: After the Blazers lost Game 1, I said they'd be fine as long as they didn't 1) let Jason Kidd shoot them down again and 2) allow Dirk Nowtizki to get a zillion free throws and do another fourth quarter ravaging of their defense. And, to be perfectly honest, it seemed inconceivable both of those things would happen again no matter what Portland did.
I mean, I thought it was about as likely as a Greg Ostertag comeback.
Well, then. Kidd went 7-for-11 from the field and 3-for-6 from downtown, finishing with 18 points and 8 assists in 33 minutes. Meanwhile, Dirk went 15-for-17 from the foul line and scored 14 of his game-high 33 points in the fourth quarter. In fact, Nowitzki scored the Mavs' final 11 points. Portland started the final 12 minutes down by a single point. After Dirk went all Mega Shark on them, they ended up losing 101-89.
And here I predicted another annual playoff choke.
Oh, and I haven't even mentioned yet how Peja Stojakovic returned from the grave, scoring 21 points on 8-for-13 shooting (5-for-10 on threes).
Not being able to defend Nowitzki, that I can understand, but not being able to stick J-Kidd or Peja? Those guys were legally declared "immobile" two years ago.
Memo to the Blazers: Dirk is going to score no matter what you do. Getting a hand in the face of the guys who can't move might be a better bet.
Chris' Playoff Lacktion Ledger:
Knicks-Celtics: Nenad Krstic collected a pot of gold worth 3 trillion (2:59).
Hawks-Magic: Jason Collins claimed a free throw and board in 18:55 as starting big man for the dirty birds, while fouling thricely for a 3:2 Voskuhl. Hilton Armstrong checked into the ledger by countering a board with three fouls and a turnover for a 4:1 Voskuhl in 6:33.
Orlando's Quentin Richardson bricked and fouled in 12:39 for a +2.