New York is still waiting to find out whether starting point guard Chauncey Billups will be ready to play for tonight's Game Two in Boston. Billups strained his left knee late in Sunday's loss at TD Garden and is officially listed as questionable for Game Two. However Mike D'Antoni does not expect Billups to be available.
Billups undoubtedly makes the Knicks better. His ability to control the offense and manage Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony throughout the game will prove invaluable. Not to mention he continues to earn his "Mr. Big Shot" moniker.
The veteran point guard scored 10 points on 3-for-11 shooting in 35 minutes. New York was +1 with him on the floor in Game One.
Billups struggled in the game Sunday night. There is no getting around it. He may have value for the Knicks as a calming force, especially late in games. But Rajon Rondo is expected to continue to improve as the series moves on -- he had just 10 points, but added nine assists and finished 2 for 6 at the rim according to HoopData.
Boston was actually pretty efficient with Billups on the floor this season.
According to the NBA.com StatsCube, Boston had a 115.4 offensive rating with Billups on the court, compared to a 100.9 rating with him off the floor in the regular season. The Celtics' season average was 104.0.
This shows two things: First, Rajon Rondo has a matchup advantage against Billups on offense. The Celtics shoot a 57.1 percent effective field goal percentage and a 61.9 percent true shooting percentage when Billups is on the floor. Second, the numbers may be slightly skewed because the Knicks' defense is so bad and that Billups is somewhat a victim of the poor defenders around him.
This is not to say Billups is still the defender he was several years ago. He is not. He has slowed down significantly from his championship days in the mid-2000s.
What is most surprising is how the Celtics' defense improves with Billups on the floor.
Boston has a 87.6 defensive rating against Billups according to the StatsCube, which is greater than 10 percent below its season average. Billups may have been able to sneak a +1 in Sunday's game, but this season he has not seen a lot of success against Boston. The Celtics are a +27.6 efficiency differential with Billups on the floor, compared to -1.89 with him off the floor.
These statistics should be taken with some grain of salt. Billups only faced the Celtics twice this season and spent 68 minutes on the floor during the regular season.
In Sunday's game (a substantially smaller sample size), the Knicks posted a 104.4 offensive rating against the Celtics with Billups on the floor which is substantially better than the 84.8 rating they posted with Billups off the floor. The Celtics offense did not change much with Billups on or off the floor -- 95.2 against Billups, 96.9 with Billups off the floor.
Boston was 10 for 24 at the rim while Billups was on the floor Sunday. The Celtics were 27 for 31 at the rim in the two games against Billups' teams in the regular season.
As stated before, these numbers come from small sample sizes. I think we can all agree the Knicks are a better team with Billups out there.
Billups during the two regular season games did a good job limiting Rondo, as he did in Game One. Rondo averaged only 7.9 points per game per 36 minutes and shot 43 percent from the floor, according to StatsCube. While his scoring average is down, Rondo's assist average was up -- to 12.8 assists per 36 minutes with Billups ont he floor.
Conversely Billups struggles while facing up against Rondo, except with 3-point shooting. Billups averages 14.6 points per 36 minutes (and, notably, 8.0 points per 36 minutes with Rondo off the floor). Even more interestingly, Rondo has taken more shots at the rim than any other type of shot with Billups on the floor -- 5 for 6 at the rim. This tells you that Rondo is getting past Billups and creating for others and himself while Billups on the floor. Chauncey makes up for this disparity by hitting on 42 percent of his 3-pointers.
This matchup is going to be extremely intriguing as this series moves forward. Billups' injury should give Rondo a further advantage.
Rondo also performs well while Toney Douglas is on the floor -- 9.4 rebounds per 36 minutes and 15.4 assists per 36 minutes and a +9.4 points per 36 minutes in 42 minutes playing against each other on the court in three games -- so it would seem Boston has a matchup advantage at the point no matter which way you split it.
Billups is dangerous in many other respects and intangible matters, which should make Boston a little happier he is not on the floor for the final moments of any games. But as far as the straight matchup goes, Rondo seems to have an easy time with Billups and he may miss seeing him on the floor tonight... even just a little bit.
Photos via DayLife.com.