WHAT IT MEANS: After nearly beating Boston in Game 1, boasting their third-best defensive effort of the season (87 points allowed), a gravitational force was cast on the Knicks. Everything has been downhill since Sunday night. They lost Chauncey Billups in Game 1 with a left knee strain; then Amare Stoudemire missed the entire second half of Game 2 with a pulled muscle in his back. And then tonight, well ... Even though STAT was back for Game 3, he only scored seven points, as the Knicks suffered their first blowout of the series, losing 113-96 in their first home playoff game since 2004. And how did Carmelo Anthony follow-up on his 42-point performance in Game 2? Only 15 points tonight.
TURNING POINT: Initially, the Knicks put together a 15-5 run to end the first quarter after being down 9-0 to start the game. Then in the second, the bench, led by Shawne Williams and Bill Walker (17 points combined at that point) sparked the Knicks, who only trailed by eight at halftime, 52-44. It was right after the break when things took a turn for the worse for the Knicks. They double-teamed the Celtics well but then slowly rotated back on defense -- looking a bit stiff like Stoudemire did in pregame warmups -- allowing Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, especially, to light up from the baseline corner three. The Celtics ended the third quarter outscoring the Knicks 34-19, and they never looked back.
DIFFERENCE-MAKERS: Personnel-wise, three out of Celtics' Big Four: Rondo, Pierce and Allen. Rondo finished with a triple-double (15 points, 20 assists and 11 rebounds), Pierce had 38 points and Allen killed the Knicks all night on his roll-outs to 3-point land, knocking down eight of them. The three of them preyed off second-chance scoring. While the offensive glass numbers were basically identical (13 to 12 in favor of the Celtics), by the end of third quarter, in which the Celtics hurt them the most, they had 22 second-chance points compared to the Knicks' 10. That was the biggest difference in the gameplay.
WHAT'S NEXT: Game 4 Sunday night in New York at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC.
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