Adjustments To Watch: Game 5

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Managing Boston Foul Trouble


By Charlie Widdoes (Twitter)

Playing against the Knicks requires the 7th-seeded Celtics to continually pick their poison. Boston is endowed with neither great size nor quickness, so they know that if they play each matchup straight up, they are bound to lose. 

Their style is physical to begin with -- every screen involving Kevin Garnett is a wrestling match -- but in this series, they seem to have accepted that making the Knicks earn their points from the free throw line is the most palatable option.

In Game 4, the Celtics were able to eek out a win and keep the series alive despite the lingering concern of foul trouble for four of their top guys. 

Brandon Bass, who will be credited with making life difficult on Anthony, fouled out with four and a half minutes left. Paul Pierce and Jeff Green played 98 minutes between them (more on that in a minute) and had five fouls apiece. Garnett had four, but his were perhaps the most nagging because he picked up his third with 6:45 left in the second quarter and his fourth just two minutes into the third. 

Because of the tireless work of Tyson Chandler on the glass and Carmelo Anthony slashing to the hoop, Doc Rivers had to constantly gameplan to preserve his players. The Knicks would earn 28 free throws on the afternoon, 20 of which were by Anthony.

In a game that the Celtics led by 20 and eventually went to overtime, the constant clock stoppages and easy opportunities contributed to the Knicks comeback.

We'll see what happens in Game 5, but judging by the first four, you'd have to think that Boston has accepted the consequences of using the stronger, but slower, Bass on Melo. The strategy worked on Sunday -- Anthony had to take 35 shots for his 36 points and the Celts were able to squeak out a win. 

Don't expect too much to change tomorrow. Boston dodged a bullet with their main guys logging minutes and they didn't get burned from the line. But the Knicks will keep attacking, so the pressure will be on to do it again.

Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images