For the second-straight game, the Boston Celtics played an efficient, punishing first half of offence against the Knicks.
And for the second-straight game, they followed it up by setting a franchise playoff record for fewest points scored in a half.
Boston mustered just 23 points in the second half their 87-71 Game 2 loss last night, which was even worse than the historic 25 points they scored in the second half of Game 1.
It’s not just that they’re absurdly inept in second halves, it’s that they’re absurdly inept in second halves immediately after piling up points in first halves.
They scored 53 in the first half of Game 1, and 48 points in the first half last night.
The Celtics shot a blistering 56% from the field in the first half last night. They were able to take advantage of New York’s switch-happy defence and get Paul Pierce mismatched against a smaller defender with some simple off-ball screens, and he drained a bunch of mid-range jumpers. Even Jason Terry and Jordan Crawford got involved and hit a couple of three-pointers.
But then this happened: 19% shooting in the second half, 7 made shots, 23 measly points, and a shot chart that looks very, very sad:
NBA.com/Stats via DeadspinThere are rational explanations for why the Celtics would have trouble scoring against the Knicks.
1. They’re just not very good on offence to begin with. Boston came into the playoffs ranked 24th in the league in offensive efficiency, the worst of any playoff team.
2. If the Knicks fight through screens instead of rabidly switching, the Celtics don’t have an overwhelming mismatch at any position. The Knicks have been all too willing to switch on to Paul Pierce in the first halves of these games, but considerably less so in the second halves
3. They don’t have the type of big men who can pound the offensive glass against NY’s small lineups. They’ve played exactly one back-up big man in this series — Chris Wilcox.
But why would they be this bad?
The Knicks have been an average defensive team this year (18th in the NBA in defensive efficiency), and the Celtics have demonstrated that they know how to attack them.
These two second halves are almost certainly anomalies. But they came at the worst possible time for Boston.
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