BOSTON -- A lot of the talk entering Game 3 was how the Knicks would handle the energized Celtics crowd, in the wake of the Boston bombings last week. While there were many touching tributes during the timeouts -- and the crowd was fired up -- the Knicks didn't let the extra emotions inside the TD Garden get to them. The veteran bunch looked comfortable on the court -- they only had three turnovers -- and they all came ready to play, as evident in their balanced scoring. Only Jason Kidd didn't put up points in the first half.
The Knicks were led by Carmelo Anthony, who came alive toward the end of the second quarter with his turnaround jumpers down the baseline. He finished the half with a game-high 12 points on 6-for-13 shooting.
Here are four other main observations at the half:
1. Knicks' stellar defense. The Celtics took more outside shots in the first half, and missed them, shooting only 35 percent from the field. The Knicks' perimeter rotations were quicker than in the previous two games, and they didn't get beat on backdoor cuts or pick-and-rolls. They fought through screens better and didn't switch as much. The Celtics, however, struggled offensively without Rajon Rondo. They had no guards in the first half who could break down the Knicks' defense and get deep into the paint. The Knicks are more covered in that department.
The Knicks were able to push the pace well and the bigger-sized Celtics couldn't keep up with their speed in the open court. The Celtics played on their heels, as the Knicks controlled the tempo of the game.
2. Pablo Prigioni's quicker play. Compared to Game 2, Prigioni's first game back from a sprained right ankle suffered at the end of the regular season, he was much quicker off of the dribble, getting deep into the paint like Felton. He had one strong drive especially that resulted in a kick-out to Shumpert for a baseline 3-pointer. Prigioni had three long balls himself (nine points in the half), showing off a quick release like a 2 guard.
With Prigioni picking up the pace to almost match Felton's, that's a big boost looking ahead to the second half. Prigioni was also, as usual, active defensively. He had four steals in the first half -- the final one intercepting a pass from Avery Bradley.
3. Iman Shumpert's all-around game. Defensively, Shump shut down the Celtics' best offensive player, Paul Pierce, holding him to 1-for-6 shooting in the first quarter. On one possession, Shumpert, who might be shorter than Pierce but is bulky at 6-5, 220 pounds, was able to get in front of the Celtics forward and steal a pass to him. Later on, Shumpert utilized his quick hands to disrupt Pierce's dribble, forcing him to lose the ball. Shump picked it up and on the other end, he attacked the middle of the lane and dished to Felton for a jump shot.
Offensively, Shumpert was explosive off of the dribble, attacking the paint and making plays. He had two assists. He also applied that aggressiveness to the glass, finishing with seven rebounds. In addition, he knocked down a 3-pointer -- one of four for the Knicks (47.1 percent from downtown).
4. Melo's dangerous defensive lapses. Sometimes, Melo tends to brick a shot and then drag on defense, as if offense is the only thing he's thinking about. While he's arguably the game's most versatile scorer, he needs to always keep making stops, especially in the playoffs. There was a sequence in the first quarter when after a missed jump shot, he failed to get back on defense quick enough and Jeff Green burned him with a transition 3-pointer.