In what could very well be the NBA’s most enticing first round series, the third seeded Boston Celtics will take on the sixth seeded New York Knicks in what is a revival of a rivalry which took place decades ago.
After seven long years, Spike Lee and company finally get to see their Knicks play in the playoffs, while the Celtics are trying to flip the switch once again in order to make another run to the Finals.
The Celtics come into the playoffs without any momentum since the controversial Kendrick Perkins trade. The question is: Are the Celtics truly hindered by the loss of Perkins or are the defending Eastern Conference champs simply playing possum similar to last year?
Only time will tell on that question, but it is clear that the Celtics will need one, if not both, of the O’Neals to be healthy to have any chance at a deep playoff run. Although the O’Neals are needed in the long run, the Celtics can probably get by without a huge contribution from them against the Knicks, who lack an interior presence.
Despite finally reaching the postseason, the Knicks have also had their fair share of ups and downs this season. After months of speculation the Knicks finally got their man in Melo, but the team has been streaky since acquiring the all star.
A recent seven game win streak has given the Knicks life though and now the Knicks seem poised to give the Big 4 and company a run for their money.
Normally looking at the season series between two teams can be beneficial in predicting a series, not in this case. The Celtics swept the series 4-0 but all games should be thrown out the window.
The games should be thrown out the window because two of the games took place before both teams made their major trade, the third game took place shortly after the trades leaving each team little amount to gel and the final game took place with players resting for Boston.
With the season series between the two teams serving as no indication of how the series will fair and the endless question marks surrounding both teams, this series becomes one of the most unpredictable in the first round.
This series provides a number of intriguing match ups, pitting all star against all star at two positions. The small forward match up should be interesting in particular with the match up between Carmelo Anthony and Paul Pierce. As both team’s best scorers this match up could go a long way in determining who comes out on top.
Power Forward also has a match up of two All Stars pitting Amare Stoudemire against Kevin Garnett. Like the series as a whole this match up has question marks. Which Amare will show up? The aggressive MVP-caliber player we saw in the first half of the season or the Amare who settles for mid range jump shots and doesn’t rebound. Garnett also has his share of question marks with the biggest concerning his knees and if they can hold up for another deep playoff run.
Despite potentially having match ups at these two spots, the Knicks are probably out manned at point guard, shooting guard and bench play, which does not bode well in their hopes of pulling off the upset.
X Factor: Chauncey Billups
Perhaps the one player on the Boston Celtics who has the ability to dominate a series is Rajon Rondo, as we saw him do last year against Cleveland. For the Knicks to have any chance of winning the series Chauncey Billups will have to either find a time machine or will need a flashback to his younger years and contain Rondo.
This will be no small task for the veteran point guard as Rondo’s speed is likely to give Billups, who at times has looked washed up, fits. Billups must play smart defense and keep Rondo out of the paint.
Billups will also be needed to be the Knicks’ third scorer for them to have any hope. The Celtics defense does a tremendous job against isolation basketball, meaning players other than Anthony and Stoudamire will have to contribute. Once seen as just a throw in to make the Melo trade work, Billups will need to add to his already impressive playoff resume in order for the Knickerbockers to advance.
Prediction: Celtics in 6
This series should only be rivaled by the Mavericks-Blazers series in terms of competitiveness and excitement, but at the end of the day I see the Celtics taking this one.
The old adage goes that defense wins championships, so the Knicks just can’t be trusted at the point. Expect the series to be tightly contested with very little blowouts but the Knicks’ inability to get big stops will ultimately be the end of them. The C’s sudden lack of size will probably do them over at some point, but the Knicks are not the team to do that this year.
Next: Will the Heat live up to the hype?
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