The Garden is Closed: Celtics Complete Sweep of Knicks - NBC New York

The Garden is Closed: Celtics Complete Sweep of Knicks

The Celtics were better in every phase of the game once again



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    The Knicks couldn't stop the Celtics this time.

    At least it wasn't as bad as Friday night.

    It certainly looked like it was heading that way in the third quarter of Sunday's 101-89 Knicks loss that capped a four-game sweep at the hands of the Celtics. Boston was up by 23 points and the Knicks appeared to be playing out the string like it was the 81st game of another losing regular season instead of the first round of the playoffs.

    A light went on, though, and the Knicks started to show some fight and heart to turn it back into a ball game in the final minutes. They were down six with five minutes to play when Shawne Williams got called for a borderline offensive foul while making a basket over Paul Pierce.

    It could have been a three-point game, but, like so many calls in this short series, it went the other way, and the Celtics closed the game out from there. For many Knicks fans, that call and others like it are reason to believe the fix was in and the Knicks never had a chance.

    No matter how much you want to believe that, you know it isn't true. The Knicks lost to the Celtics because they were outgunned, outcoached and outplayed all over the court during the four-game sweep that sends Boston on to what should be an entertaining series against the Heat, assuming the Heat don't lose to the Sixers three more times.

    That doesn't mean you can't be frustrated, though. Feel free to scream to the heavens with questions about why Anthony Carter -- who led Sunday's comeback -- was relegated to a bench role behind Toney Douglas and Roger Mason even though he outplayed them in every game and was the only point guard on the roster once Chauncey Billups got hurt.

    Feel free to wonder why the team came out so flat on Friday night in front of a crowd that was ready to lift them up, and why they were just as flat when things got underway on Sunday. Feel free to ask why Landry Fields kept getting more rope to hang himself when it was clear he couldn't play.

    While you're at it, just be sure to wonder what might have been if not for the injuries to Billups and Amar'e Stoudemire. After a brutal Friday night, it was a bit surprising to see Stoudemire in the game on Sunday, but his presence was a huge boost, as he gave every ounce of himself in the ultimately futile effort.

    Also, please feel free to wonder what this team might be if they had a bench that was something more than the D-League fodder that is currently on the roster. The Carmelo Anthony trade gutted the team's depth, but that can come back and it was made clear in this series that this team's upper-tier talent gives them enough to hang with the big boys.

    They need help, however, and big steps need to be made. We'll discuss all of them in the days to come, but, like the fans at the end of Sunday's loss, take one moment to celebrate the first step that was made this season.

    The Knicks deserve that much after this season, but let's be clear: This won't cut it again next time around. If the Knicks truly are back, then much more than a brief visit from the first round is needed to confirm it.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.