A historic matchup of two of the most storied, and retooled, NBA franchises that will have superstars a-plenty but only one outcome.
3. Boston Celtics vs. 6. New York Knickerbockers
There was a time when the boys from Beantown were looked on as heavy favorites to win the East and return to the Finals. However, their recent skid since the team traded Kendrick Perkins is something to worry about. The New York Knicks also experienced a period of high expectations this season after acquiring the likes of Carmelo Anthony to play alongside Amar’e Stoudemire. It turns out though that the Knicks are not any better than they were before the Meloman came to town.
Boston is not a good rebounding team. They average only 38.8 rebounds per game and only collect 49.47 percent of the total available rebounds during a game which ranks them 20th in the league. Only two other playoff teams have a worse rebounding rate than the Celtics: the Atlanta Hawks and the Knicks. Luckily for the Celtics they consistently out-rebounded the Knicks in their four meetings this season in which Boston came out victorious in each with an average margin of 6.5 points. New York gave up an average of 45.3 rebounds per contest while collecting only 37.
Paul Pierce vs. Carmelo Anthony
Watching these players defend each other should be a treat for fans who do not care for the who “defense” thing. Luckily for them Mike D’Antoni is coaching in this series. For Piece, it will be key to get cut to the rim or make a false dive cut and then take his shot. Where Piece, and the Celtics in general will get into trouble against the Knicks is if they take too many spot up jumpers. They are not very good in this category as they average .912 points per possession when they opt to take a spot up jump shot. As for Anthony, he needs to isolate Pierce as best he can. This, however, will not be a beneficial as it may appear at first. Boston has one of the better Isolation defenses in the league because of the help that each player on the court will provide. Anthony works best in Isolation situations as he has yet to full grasp D’Antoni’s offensive schemes. He will get his points but it will be at the cost of many shot attempts.
Kevin Garnett vs. Amar’e Stoudemire
Stoudemire outscored Garnett in all but on meeting this season. This is because, at the time, Stoudemire was forced into the role of the Knicks’ center because of D’Antoni’s mistrust of Timofey Mozgov and the injuries that plagues Ronny Turiaf. For this series the two should square off against each other quite a bit depending on the lineups and schemes that D’Antoni runs in an attempt to break the Celtics’ defense. Garnett must be willing to play away from the rim to guard Stoudemire, who works in Isolations situations around the top of the key regularly. As for Garnett, he needs to move effectively off the ball so that when a slasher (Pierce, Rajon Rondo) enters the lane he can step into an open location and knock down a shot when his defender collapses to protect the paint.
What is Chauncey Billups‘ role on the Knicks? Yes, he is their starting point guard but his shot selection, especially over the last few weeks of the regular season, has been abysmal. Mr. Big Shot has been anything but that. What he does bring to the Knicks is plenty of playoff experience. Other than Turiaf, he is the only player on the roster to have won a championship. New York is completely out-classed by Boston in this series. For them to have any shot at pulling off an upset, Billups must return to form and play like the player he was on the 2004 Detroit Pistons.
The cries from Boston keep imploring fans to wait for the return of Shaquille O’neal. To them, he is the difference maker on the team. There is a case to be made for this as well since the Celtics are 28-9 when the big fella is in the rotation. But what of his injury? Will he be healthy enough to give Boston what they need to sustain a long playoff run?
Despite Boston’s woeful second half they should still have enough depth and talent to dismiss New York. What they have going for them is a willingness to play defense which is something that D’Antoni has yet to instill in any of the team he has coached for. The loss of Perkins will become palpable later on in the playoffs for the Celtics but not in this series as their depth will prove to be key. Celtics defeat the Knicks 4-1.