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Knicks need to execute late or Celtics will be executioner

Apr 20, 2011, 3:19 PM EDT

New York Knicks forward Anthony and head coach D'Antoni react in Game 2 of their NBA Eastern Conference playoff series against the Boston Celtics in Boston Reuters

The Knicks are not dead in their series against the Celtics.

But when they take the floor Friday night in a shaking-the-building loud Madison Square Garden, there will be a guy standing in the corner wearing a full length black hooded robe, with a boney hand holding a sickle. He’s waiting for just one more end-of-game mistake — from player or coach — and then he will claim his prize.

New York came into this series with a puncher’s chance — they were not the better team, but they had two guys capable of landing haymakers and stealing a game. And both did.

Both games this series the Celtics were staggered. Then held on to win.

The Celtics executed better at the end of games, something now ingrained in their championship DNA. The Knicks could not finish them off. They are still alive only because they go home with the chance to take that next step, catch a couple breaks and execute when the game is decided.

The math is simple — either they step up and win the next two or they will fly back to Boston for an inevitable end. With that hooded guy riding in first class.

In Game 1, Amar’e Stoudemire was an unstoppable force in the fourth quarter. His driving dunk with 2:47 left had the Knicks up five. Then, for reasons as baffling as what happened to the Mayans, after the 2-minute mark he got no more shots off. Because a Ronny Turiaf layup was a better idea. Or a long ‘Melo three. Toney Douglas gave the Knicks hope with a long three, but then it was two more missed ‘Melo contested jumpers. Stoudemire never got a chance. That’s on Anthony. That’s on D’Antoni.

Meanwhile the Celtics executed on both ends. They stuck with what they wanted to do. They played like veterans. They won.

Game two was about Celtic execution and the lack of Knick depth. This time it was Anthony who threw the haymaker — 42 points on 30 shots and hitting wild, contested threes late like few shooters in the game every could. He was a marvel

But with the game on the line, Boston brought the hard double to get the ball out of ‘Melo’s hands and his passing options included Jared Jeffries, Bill Walker and Roger Mason. Those are 10 minutes a game guys on most playoff teams, they never see the court on a true contending team. But they were the Knicks crunch time lineup because Chauncey Billups has a bum knee, Stoudemire’s back was spasming and Landry Fields’ game has gone into the witness protection program.

The Celtics held serve at home. New York is still alive. Yes, the Knicks have to win 4-of-5 and find a way to win in Boston. But not right now. Right now they need to win two at home, where Spike Lee will be making a spectacle of himself. And that’s just what he wears to the game.

The Knicks need to keep landing the haymakers, and they have to add end-of-game execution. Not Jeffries trying to throw a bounce pass past Kevin Garnett, but smart plays. From key players. Staying with the hot hand, getting the timely stop. Making the timely shot because you made a good decisions not forced one up in isolation. Because the coach had the right players on the floor (read: not Jeffries).

The Knicks are not dead. But if they don’t execute the executioner is waiting. And wearing green.

  1. liltmac2003 - Apr 20, 2011 at 3:37 PM

    Knicks were down with 4 seconds left. Both teams just came out of a timeout. Boston had the ball.

    I absoultey don’t understand how NO ONE on the Knicks side mentioned “…and oh yeah, foul asap.”

    Because it took forever for Carmelo to foul. It’s just when the clock strikes 1:00 minute and lower, the Knicks completely lose track of time.

  2. LPad - Apr 20, 2011 at 4:43 PM

    It isn’t really baffling at all as to why Amare didn’t get the ball down the stretch of Game One. Boston called a timeout adjusted their defense. They had KG play in front of Amare with JO stationed down low to prevent a lob. Since Amare is a PF/C, he isn’t capable of going one-on-one from 25 feet out and the Knicks don’t have a front court player to occupy JO’s attention it’s actually quite easy to take him out of the game.

    Amare was the first option on three of the last four plays: he was the first option when Billups drove it and got hurt, the first option on the Melo foul, and the first option on Douglas three. KG fronted him on the drive and the foul with JONeal shaded over to prevent the lob. He also set the pick for Douglas on the three. Late in the clock you have to go elsewhere if you can’t get to the first option.

    The real reason why the Knicks are struggling down the stretch is that Boston is better. Last night, Melo was the only one on the Knicks who was better than the person guarding him.

  3. keithosaunders - Apr 20, 2011 at 5:30 PM

    Great comment by lpad. Melo not fouling Delonte West with 4.5 seconds is inexcusable. Where is his basketball IQ? Then, in postgame comments, he tried to make it seem as if he was too tired to foul, or that he was concerned about fouling out. He may be a great player, but he is not a winning player.

    • andyhr17 - Apr 20, 2011 at 8:44 PM

      Exactly. He’s a natural born scorer….that’s IT. He’s not a good defender and seems to care about himself more than his team. The Celtics big three are past their prime…but they play team basketball where one person isn’t relied on to take the game over. If one falls, the other pick up the slack. Team basketball is what wins in the playoffs. This is what is lacking with the Knicks. Melo can score 40+ points in a playoff game and keep his team close…but all it takes is one or two bone headed plays to erase all of that and lose the game.

    • LPad - Apr 21, 2011 at 11:03 AM

      Why isn’t he a winning player because he was tired (after going for 42 pts, 17 rebs, 6 asts against the top defense in the league) or because Jeffries didn’t shoot the ball when he was open?

      BTW, I wouldn’t put that all on Melo. Seems like there was a big miscommunication because West came off of a screen and one player thought they were supposed to switch and one didn’t. Either they were supposed to switch or they weren’t. Since the team isn’t going to talk about it in the press. We can’t assume Melo was at fault. Besides, all it cost them was a desperate heave. Very small chance it goes in.

  4. dysraw1 - Apr 21, 2011 at 6:15 PM

    all u non believers get out of town the undermanned knicks scared the crap celtics on their own floor. when game 3 comes theres really gonna be reason. 1999 the weakest team in the east went to finals. boston is not almighty an can be beat.the word u used in the title execution is critical

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