The assignment is not one that should be envied, even now. Raymond Felton, all of 6 feet 1 inch, has been tasked with guarding Paul Pierce in the first round of the Celtics-Knicks playoff series, a plan that had coach Mike Woodson saying earlier in the week, simply, “Good luck.”
But even so, Felton had a breakout performance in the first two games, keeping Pierce under control and capably leading his own team as point guard. And he did it again Friday night in Game 3 at TD Garden, limiting Pierce to 17 points on 6-for-15 shooting in the Knicks’ 90-76 win.
“Just be aggressive with him,” Felton said of his approach to guarding Pierce. “Don’t let him get into his rhythm. Just try to stay into him.
“I’m much smaller than he is, so I just try to stay up under him so he can’t really use his finesse. That’s the way he plays. He plays with finesse.”
Pierce scored 21 points in Game 1, and followed that up with 18 in Game 2, but he was never the offensive force the Celtics needed. Part of that was due to the work that Felton put in against him.
The Knicks will attempt to sweep the Celtics on Sunday with Felton leading the way.
“He’s an All-Star, he’s a great player,” Felton said. “He’s done a lot in this league. I can’t sit here and say I can stop him, but I can try to frustrate him.”
In addition to his defense, Felton has been an important third scoring option behind Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith, scoring 44 points in the first three games.
“When you’ve got guys like that, that can really score the ball, that can really make things happen, it opens up for me,” said Felton, who also had 10 assists in Friday’s win.
As Celtics coach Doc Rivers said earlier in the week, “He’s killing us.”
Prigioni a factor
Pablo Prigioni was seemingly everywhere on the court in Game 3, a major factor in the Knicks’ improved defense. He had five of the team’s 14 steals, and added 9 points on three 3-pointers in 30 minutes. Prigioni missed Game 1 with an ankle injury. “Pablo, he’s always doing that,” Iman Shumpert said. “He’s always up there pressuring, he’s really aggressive on the defensive end. On offense he makes sure we’re patient and take it down to the last second if we have to, as long as we get good shots. But he’s always trying to get us an opportunity with a quick steal or a quick offensive rebound.”Amalie Benjamin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @amaliebenjamin.