Skip to content

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.

Latest Posts
  1. Morris twins lawyers seek to send case back to grand jury

    Aug 4, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT

    Phoenix Suns Media Day Getty Images

    The Morris twins have denied any involvement, or even knowing the victim.

  2. Mavericks’ coach Rick Carlisle says team will error on side of caution with Wesley Matthews return

    Aug 4, 2015, 1:05 AM EDT

    New York Knicks v Portland Trail Blazers Getty Images

    Thinking long-term is the smart approach, the only one the Mavericks should consider

  3. Kobe Bryant’s popularity in China knows no bounds

    Aug 3, 2015, 11:17 PM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwzjzdnimmu0mmfiyjq3nwrlytblymy1zja0mgnhnmiw AP

    Kobe Bryant is Beatles during the British Invasion level popular in China.

  4. Report: Nets doing Earl Clark a favor and waiving him

    Aug 3, 2015, 9:59 PM EDT

    Brooklyn Nets v Atlanta Hawks- Game One Getty Images

    Brooklyn could have easily kept Clark through training camp

  5. Jerry Colangelo: Paul George will attend USA Basketball minicamp meeting, won’t play

    Aug 3, 2015, 9:03 PM EDT

    Team USA Showcase Getty Images

    Pacers star maintains status as lock for 2016 Olympic roster – if he wants to play

  6. Klay Thompson’s brother called up to the White Sox

    Aug 3, 2015, 8:16 PM EDT

    Chicago White Sox v Kansas City Royals Getty Images

    Trayce Thompson gives Thompson family yet another professional athlete

  7. LeBron James to attend Team USA minicamp, leave early

    Aug 3, 2015, 7:25 PM EDT

    US forward LeBron James celebrates after Getty Images

    That’ll keep him a viable candidate for 2016 Olympic roster

  8. Report: Mavericks give Salah Mejri fully guaranteed salary

    Aug 3, 2015, 5:36 PM EDT

    BASKET-EURL-ANADOLU EFES-REAL MADRID Getty Images

    Dallas loading up on players. What will roster look like in November?

  9. Nancy Lieberman says DeMarcus Cousins happy Kings hired her

    Aug 3, 2015, 3:58 PM EDT

    Nancy Lieberman Nancy Lieberman

    Will new Sacramento assistant coach improve Cousins’ relationship with George Karl?

  10. Ray Allen: “I won’t officially retire”

    Aug 3, 2015, 12:50 PM EDT

    Ray Allen AP

    “I didn’t miss it. I realized how much time I missed not being home with my kids.” —Ray Allen on last season

  11. Report: Kings have no interest in Hedo Turkoglu

    Aug 3, 2015, 9:55 AM EDT

    Washington Wizards v Los Angeles Clippers Getty Images

    The Kings were never a likely landing spot.

  12. Report: 76ers to sign Jordan McRae a year after stashing him

    Aug 3, 2015, 8:30 AM EDT

    Philadelphia 76ers v Utah Jazz Getty Images

    What will J.P. Tokoto, future Philadelphia second-rounders think of McRae’s contract?

  13. Timberwolves coach Flip Sauders returns to Twitter to say he loves three pointers

    Aug 3, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT

    Flip Saunders AP

    The Timberwolves roster doesn’t have a lot of quality three point shooters on it.

  14. Magic guarantee Dewayne Dedmon’s contract

    Aug 3, 2015, 12:01 AM EDT

    Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets Getty Images

    Orlando keeps backup center on minimum contract

Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. K. Bryant (1861)
  2. L. James (1556)
  3. J. Thompson (1522)
  4. T. Thompson (1363)
  5. J. Smith (1357)
  1. S. Vujacic (1353)
  2. M. Scott (1332)
  3. P. George (1292)
  4. S. Curry (1192)
  5. J. Noah (1155)