Finally! The playoffs are finally here and the players and fans are both ready to get it started. For the players, their dream of holding that championship trophy starts now. For the fans, it’s time to get ready to cheer on your warriors. We’ll analyze each match-up in the order that they’ll come in this weekend. First, we have the highly anticipated matchup between the Boston Celtics and the New York Knicks.
Why the Knicks Win:
The Knicks are carrying tons of momentum with them into this series. They finished the season 54-28 – their best record since the 96-97 season when Patrick Ewing was the righteous king of New York. They come in winners of 8 of their last 10 and feeling good. Carmelo locked up the scoring title this season after averaging 36.9 points in April on 46.7% shooting from deep and 53.8% from the field. Like everybody always says, teams win regular season games, but great players win playoff games and the Knicks have one of the hottest right now in Carmelo Anthony. Carmelo will have to carry his hot touch into this series from the very first tip for the Knicks to have a chance. Not only does his scoring obviously knock Boston right out, but with all the attention on him in the post, it opens it up for the Knicks’ plethora of shooters to gain confidence early. If there ever was a team that lives and dies by the three, it’s the Knicks. The Knicks will have to be hot as ever if they want to advance against Boston. They attempt 29 a game and make 11 but if they aren’t making their threes then you can count them out almost immediately. They’re going to have to have everyone involved offensively, and resist being stagnant and watching Melo go one on one because Boston wants nothing more than to play 5 on 1 on Melo. J.R Smith is going to have to continue his hot touch this series and be a reliable 2nd option for Melo when he needs it. If those two guys are hot, then the Knicks can do things like win 13 in a row with ease. Their offense is very much suited for the playoffs, they can push the ball but can also play in the half-court with a ‘Melo post up or a Felton + Chandler pick and roll. They also lead the league in fewest turnovers a game with 12, which will be vital in the playoffs when every possession becomes precious.
Defensively, the Knicks are going to have to stay disciplined. There were times throughout the season where they would play hard for a few possessions and then let it slip. Consistency is a big word for the Knicks who will have to play for 48 minutes the entire time, especially against a veteran Celtic squad who will take advantage of every possible opportunity. The Knicks are lucky because the Celtics are coming off a rough end to their season. They’ve won 4 of their last 10 with Kevin Garnett fresh off of a foot injury. He’ll be rusty come Saturday and the Knicks will have to take advantage of that. The Knicks have to play tough above everything. The Celtics are an experienced squad led by Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett who know this could be one of their last chances at a championship. They play gritty and they play tough, and you never know when they’re going to surprise you because they play with so much heart. The Knicks need to lock down and take advantage of their home-crowd behind them. They have to use that energy as fuel defensively to bother the Celtics who were an atrocious 14-27 on the road this season. The Knicks were blessed with home court advantage and need to use it. Neither of these two teams are particularly strong on the boards, so the Knicks are going to have to play extra tough down low with a depleted frontline. Tyson Chandler is going to have to guard the interior and badger Garnett. Earl Barron will also have to be ready to play dirty down low to match Boston’s intensity.
Above all else, the Knicks need to stay healthy. They knew what they were getting into with a team full of 40 year olds. Rasheed Wallace just retired, Prigioni just got injured last night, and Kurt Thomas was released after his foot injury. They need everybody to stay healthy this series. Tyson was a little rusty in the last few games this season so the Knicks need to pray to the basketball gods for everybody to stay healthy for things to work out for them.
Why the Celtics Win:
The Celtics have a special trait that not many teams have in the league and that is their ability to fly under the radar. The Celtics may have finished the season out rough, but you can never underestimate the Celtics even without Rajon Rondo. They are stacked with experienced veterans like Pierce, Garnett and Terry just to name a few who have all gone far in the playoffs and knows what it takes. The Celtics can come out and very subtly put up a fight against any team in the league. So much so, that you might not even notice how close they are keeping the game until the very end. The Celtics have that in their favor. They need hall of fame performances from Pierce and Garnett though, if they have any chance of winning this series. The Knicks are going to come at them explosively on offense as they always do and it’s up to the two members of the Big Three left standing to match that energy. Pierce needs to have big scoring games every night, and make Carmelo work on the defensive end on every possession. Garnett has to recognize that the Knicks’ frontline is very thin after Thomas, Wallace and Stoudemire all got injured this season. Besides Chandler and the new addition Earl Barron, the Knicks’ next biggest guy is Kenyon Martin and Chris Copeland at 6’9 and 6’10 respectively. If he can get Chandler into foul trouble in each game this series, then the Celtics will have the paint wide open to work with. That’s where Jeff Green comes in as well. He has excelled this season at getting into the paint and attacking the rim, if he can put pressure on New York’s interior guys than the Celtics have a shot. The Celtics are also going to have to bring their bench with them. A lot of their game offensively, is the firepower that guys like Terry, Lee, and Crawford provide for them off the bench. They come in and can all light it up rather quickly, without those guys the Celtics are going to have a hard time scoring the ball. They may be atrocious on the road but Boston has never been more united than it is right now after the horrible tragedy that hit them this past week. They will have their whole Boston family behind them when they get home so they need to take advantage of that and win at home because the Knicks have only lost 10 times at home this season.
Defensively, they need Jeff Green to be on his A+ game. He is the only guy really quick enough to stay with Melo on the perimeter and in the post. He needs to play like a veteran and stop Melo from scoring. It’s no easy task but if the Celtics want a chance, they need him to be ready. Defense is a team game above all else, so everybody will need to be ready to help him in the post and get ready to run the Knicks off the three point line because they are deadly if left alone. They are going to need to grind it out on the boards as well. They are the worst in the league in offensive rebounds per game with only 8. Tyson Chandler is infamous for the tap out and they need to make sure the Knicks only get one shot up every possession otherwise the Knicks will run all over them. On the perimeter the Celtics really match up rather well with the Knicks – they have strong defenders in Bradley, Lee, and Crawford. One guy that they might need to watch out for is Chris Copeland. He may seem irrelevant in the big scheme of Boston’s plans but he gives the Celtics a big mismatch defensively. Brandon Bass will most likely have to guard him but Copeland can shoot the three and if he brings Bass out to the perimeter not only will he get lit up but the middle will be left open. He’ll be someone they need to watch out for.
Who Will Win?
I’m going with the New York Knicks. I think they have the momentum, I think they have the star in his prime, I think they have the better team overall and they have the home-court advantage. The Celtics will put up a good fight as always, but the Knicks will take it in the end.
Knicks win in 5.