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PBT NBA Playoff Preview: Boston Celtics vs. New York Knicks

Apr 18, 2013, 1:16 PM EDT

Boston Celtics v New York Knicks Getty Images

SEASON RECORDS
New York:54-28, second seed in East
Boston: 41-40, seven seed in East (the odd number of games is due to the cancelled one the day after the Boston Marathon tragedy, it did not impact the standings)

SEASON SERIES
The Knicks won the regular season 3-1, but both these teams went through seasons within a seasons — for example, the Knicks were great at the beginning and end of the season but pedestrian in the middle — so you can’t read too much into previous meetings. These are different teams now.

KEY INJURIES
Boston: The two big ones are the two we have known about for a while — Rajon Rondo (right knee) and Jared Sullinger (back) are both out following surgery this season. Paul Pierce has a sore left ankle but he will play.

New York: It might be easier to list guys not banged up. Amare Stoudemire has been out following right knee surgery but may be back for this series. Tyson Chandler is battling a bulging disc in his neck but will play. Carmelo Anthony has a sore shoulder but will play. Kenyon Martin has knee issues but is expected play. Pablo Prigioni is questionable for Game 1 with a sprained right ankle. Marcus Camby is coming off a foot injury. Basically all the older Knicks players have some pains but most will play.

OFFENSE/DEFENSE RANKINGS (points per 100 possession)

Knicks: offense 108.6 (3rd best in NBA), defense 103.5 (17th in NBA)
Celtics: offense 101.1 (20th in NBA), defense 100.4 (6th in NBA)

Differential: Knicks +5.1 (6th in NBA), Celtics +0.7 (14th in NBA)

THREE KEYS FOR BOSTON:

Jeff Green: Since Rajon Rondo went down a lot more responsibility for shot creation and points has fallen on Green. And in a very Jeff Green way he has been aggressive, attacking and brilliant at points; then passive and fading into the background in others. That can’t happen in this series. While the Celtics will play strong defense the Knicks will put up points and the Celtics need to find a burst of offense. In addition, Green is going to spend a lot of time guarding Carmelo Anthony and he needs to make the Knicks prolific scorer work for his points. There is no bigger X-factor in this series — Green needs to have a big series for Boston to win.

Run Knicks’ shooters off three-point line: When Jason Kidd, Steve Novak, J.R. Smith and the rest of the Knicks are draining threes at a high percentage they are virtually unbeatable. They can just simply outscore you. Boston has to finish its rotations, run guys off the line and make them dribble in and take two pointers. One of Boston’s great defensive strengths is making you think you have space to shoot when you really don’t, they need to do that and contest every three they can in this series.

Be consistent: It has been the Celtics biggest issue (outside injuries) this season — just when they seem to get things going and are in position to make a big move they get sloppy. Missed defensive rotations, missed shots, missed opportunities. Against a more talented Knicks team, the Celtics have no margin for error. They cannot have these slips. Do and it costs them a game and a series very fast.

THREE KEYS FOR NEW YORK:

Carmelo Anthony: As he goes, the Knicks go. This season he is getting MVP votes not because he won the league’s scoring title (28.7 points per game) but because he did the other things he didn’t used to do as much — share the ball, defend, play team basketball. Remember early in the season when he missed games with a broken finger hurt diving into the stands for a loose ball? That is the Carmelo Anthony that can lead the Knicks deep in the playoffs, but if he reverts under pressure to isolation basketball it plays into the Celtics’ hands.

Tyson Chandler: He’s listed here as the anchor and representative for the Knicks defense. Without Rajon Rondo on the court, the Celtics offense becomes less creative, and far more hit and miss. But you know Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett can score, and you know if Jeff Green decides to be aggressive that day he’s a force. Chandler needs to control the paint, take away the easy buckets inside, force the Celtics into jump shots (which ideally are contested). Iman Shumpert has to play big on Green and control him, not let him get hot.

Ball movement on offense: During their recent winning streak the Knicks were moving the ball on offense as well as any team in the NBA. They must keep this up in the playoffs. The Knicks don’t use that ball movement for as much traditional catch-and-shoot as you would think — Zach Harper at CBS cleverly called it “selfish ball movement” — but they do create space with passing to give guys room to work. The Celtics defense is predicated on overloading a side and taking away dribble penetration with easy kick-outs. If the ball sticks — and when the Knicks struggle it sticks on a side — then the Celtics defense can get set and shut them down.

OUTLOOK

This series is right for the Knicks in an epic hero kind of way — the Celtics have long been the Knicks tormentors. In Carmelo’s first playoff series as a Knick it was the Celtics that swept them away. The Knicks are on the precipice of their greatest season in more than a decade, they have the potential to make a deep playoff run. So it is fitting that to advance the protagonist must first conquer his old demons. The Knicks must slay the Celtics to move on.

To do that the Knicks have to prove that the changes we saw this season were not cosmetic, that the more cohesive offense will not come apart under the pressure of the Celtics defense. Because Boston will pressure New York and both Carmelo and J.R. Smith have a habit under pressure of reverting to more isolation, taking on more themselves — which is exactly what the Celtics want you to do and what their defense is designed to shut down.

Boston is going to grind. Paul Pierce is going to make big shots, Kevin Garnett is going to scowl, Avery Bradley is going to be tenacious and Doc Rivers is going to pull the right strings. This is going to be a physical, war of a series. The Knicks are going to have to play at both ends. Maybe most importantly, they have to take care of the ball and not give the Celtics easy buckets — conversely if the Celtics can get some turnovers they give themselves a real chance.

New York doesn’t get to coast, they are going to have to earn this series win.

PREDICTION:

Knicks in the full seven games.

  1. yousuxxors - Apr 18, 2013 at 1:34 PM

    Knicks in 5

    • 4thquartermagic - Apr 18, 2013 at 2:50 PM

      Bet you $10,000 that this series goes more then 5 games. It took NY eleven ELEVEN year to win ONE playoff game.

      Man the kool-aid is STRONG in the city that never sleeps… or has rational expectations.

      It’s ok to be a homer. But damn.

      • ezzz2the - Apr 18, 2013 at 3:05 PM

        And what does the last ELEVEN years have to do with THIS year? Not saying that they’re going to win in 5 but your logic makes no sense. Expectations are high they’re a 2nd seed with a small closing window

      • 4thquartermagic - Apr 18, 2013 at 3:16 PM

        Expectations are waaay too high because this team plays in NY.

        But to your point, the logic of an overhyped team who has no recent history of success is valid.

        Their roster is full of injury concerns and their superstar is known for scoring tons of buckets while still losing in the playoffs.

        They’re an older, slower, and injured version of the Denver Nuggets team that barely made if out of the first round and got swept in the first round for several years.

        Also Id take the matchup of the #2 seed in the east over the #3, 4, or 5 seed team in the west. Just saying.

      • Mr. Wright 212 - Apr 18, 2013 at 5:08 PM

        Go home and get ready for the lottery selection show, 4thquartermagic.

      • 4thquartermagic - Apr 18, 2013 at 5:17 PM

        Mr Wright. whatever bro. My team won more games in a much better conference.

        Please be sure to check back in 2 weeks when my team’s still playing and Melo and LaLa are on vacation.

      • eventhorizon04 - Apr 18, 2013 at 5:37 PM

        (4thquartermagic isn’t a Magic fan, he’s a Nuggets fan.)

      • ezzz2the - Apr 18, 2013 at 9:25 PM

        He had to be a Nuggets fan I can feel the bitterness thru my screen. Let me guess Melo is a bum and your happy he’s not on your team? RRRRRIIIIIIGGGGHHHHTTTTT.

        This Knicks team is better than anything Melo ever had in Denver.

        Still dont get the history part, Cavs had no history of winning till LBJ arrived and that changed because PLAYERS play not HISTORY

      • 4thquartermagic - Apr 19, 2013 at 1:41 PM

        Your Knicks team comprised of Nuggets sloppy seconds would be 7th in the West.

        If Melo was truly a great player, how come our franchise has done better without him?

        No answer? thought so.

      • ezzz2the - May 8, 2013 at 1:44 PM

        Enjoying watching Melo still playing in the playoffs?

        No answer? You must be playing golf on your early summer vacation

      • 4thquartermagic - May 9, 2013 at 4:03 PM

        Yes I’m upset that my Nuggets team got knocked out.
        No I am not bitter the Melo is still in it.

        Neither team is/was good enough to even compete with the Heat.

  2. Rich Peters - Apr 18, 2013 at 1:58 PM

    Reblogged this on Higher Ground.

  3. GT - Apr 18, 2013 at 1:59 PM

    Celtics in 6. Old but still good enough and time tested especially when doubted. and Knicks have yet to prove it in the second season.

  4. acdc363 - Apr 18, 2013 at 2:04 PM

    I got Celtics in 6 but this is a true test for the Knicks. They get past the Celtics in the first round there should be no reason they wont be meeting the Heat in the conference finals.

  5. scalfor3 - Apr 18, 2013 at 2:25 PM

    Get your honey nut cheerios ready, this one will be a doozy

  6. chicitybulls - Apr 18, 2013 at 2:25 PM

    NBA Playoffs Flopping rules:

    Fines increased. No warnings. First offense is a fine.

    http://www.nba.com/2013/news/04/18/playoffs-flopping-rules/index.html?ls=iref:nbahpts

    • 4thquartermagic - Apr 18, 2013 at 2:57 PM

      Flop at the end of a tight game: get fined.

      Flop at the end of a tight game and go on to win: priceless.

      Flopping penalties are a joke and change nothing.

    • eventhorizon04 - Apr 18, 2013 at 5:39 PM

      The public shaming of being officially labeled a flopper is going to sting more than any fine would (assuming the NBA has the balls to label a super-star a flopper in the playoffs).

      Before, fans could accuse players of flopping, but now, it’s an “official” label with an official penalty that gets recorded.

  7. asimonetti88 - Apr 18, 2013 at 2:40 PM

    Should be a great series! No love lost between these two teams.

  8. cantonbound13 - Apr 18, 2013 at 4:46 PM

    Knicks in 5 with all games being close.

  9. Mr. Wright 212 - Apr 18, 2013 at 5:07 PM

    Knicks in 5. You guys give Boston WAY too much credit.

  10. eventhorizon04 - Apr 18, 2013 at 5:48 PM

    I think Knicks in 6. I think we can count on a big game from Pierce and a second big game from a Celtic player (either Green or KG) to help left the Celtics to two wins – or at the very least, the Knicks to be a little cold from 3 in a couple of games.

    However, Rondo has a history of upping his game in the post-season (i.e., he doesn’t coast like he does in some regular season games), and he won’t be around to help the Celtics.
    The Celtics’ big-man depth is “questionable” especially after losing Jared Sullinger (who had developed into a solid contributor later in his rookie season before his injury). I might have picked the Celtics to win despite not having homecourt if they were healthier, but KG is coming off a foot injury and Pierce is dealing with a pinched nerve.

    I know some will argue that the Knicks haven’t exactly been lucky with health, but most of their injuries have been to backups, and the Knicks have gotten used to playing without Stoudamire – and some advanced stats show that while Amar’e was gifted on offense he was still a huge liability on defense – so the loss of Amar’e doesn’t hurt the Knicks chances all that much.

  11. abasketballthing - Apr 18, 2013 at 7:03 PM

    Garnett and Pierce are not physically in condition to repeat past playoff performances. They’ll give the Knicks a good fight, but without Rondo, they’ll run out of gas too quickly and lose the series.

  12. eflem80 - Apr 18, 2013 at 8:51 PM

    Knicks in 5…what the Knicks have done in the past 11 years has absolutely NOTHING to do with the squad that’s taking the floor this Saturday. It’s seriously the dumbest argument to be made. The Knicks are better than the celtics…..period.

  13. doclolly - Apr 18, 2013 at 11:14 PM

    Knicks in 6.. Ball don’t lie

  14. canehouse - Apr 19, 2013 at 12:26 AM

    Boston is going to be a tough out… no matter what their season ended up like.

  15. daddyghi - Apr 19, 2013 at 1:48 AM

    not a boston fan but count them out yet… these guys can screw anyteams heads! watch out for KG, trash talkin…

  16. halfbaht - Apr 19, 2013 at 2:42 AM

    Can not wait to see the good ole NY Knicks choke! Let’s go boston!

  17. dysraw1 - Apr 19, 2013 at 9:11 AM

    as i stated yesterday this series will be big for my home town team, in this series i expect that J Kidd will be 1 of the big reasons we finally get out of the 1st round

  18. senorpapino - Apr 19, 2013 at 9:16 AM

    I really can’t believe all the “pundits” are picking a full 7 game series here. No one cares about the 1 playoff win in 12 years as that has nothing to do with right now. The Knicks dominated the Celtics all season and the C’s best players are either injured or just getting back from injury. Plus, the Knicks have gotten extremely hot leading up to the playoffs. This has all the making of a Knicks win in 5.

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