It’s been a very long time since the New York Knicks entered a first round series in the playoffs with home court advantage and labeled as favorites, but the Boston Celtics have been declining season after season since their last NBA finals appearance, and might hit a new low and the official end of the Paul Pierce – Kevin Garnett era with an early exit.
If the season series is something to go on, the Celtics are in for a very rough time. They did win the first game between the two teams, the famous “honey” game in which Kevin Garnett managed to get into the head of Carmelo Anthony, but it was three straight for the Knicks afterwards, including winning twice in Boston.
Anthony is averaging 25.3 points per game vs the Celtics this season, including 28 and 29 in the last two wins over the Celtics. He did take a rest on the final two games of the season, but enters the postseason averaging 36.9 points over the last 10 games, leading an offense that is third in the NBA when it comes to efficiency, averaging 107.4 points per 100 possessions, while the Celtics are 23rd with 99.8.
Defensively, the Knicks aren’t the hardest working team you’ll find in the NBA, relying too much on Tyson Chandler’s ability to close down the paint while Carmelo Anthony switches his motor on D on and off. They give up 102.4 points per possessions while the Celtics allow 100 points.
The Knicks’ biggest weapon, besides Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith heating up, is moving the ball around thanks to Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd, leading to the fourth highest three point shooting percentage in the NBA (37.6%) while making more shots from downtown than anyone else, hitting 10.9 per game. The Celtics shoot pretty well as well (over 35%), but attempt only 17 shots a game, making 6.6 of them.
This is a series that won’t be decided by defensive superiority, but by who finds more players who can consistently score. At the moment, the Knicks seem to have the advantage, with J.R. Smith averaging 22 points per game in the last 10, while Steve Novak, Chris Copeland and Iman Shumpert can get hot as well if the ball moves and doesn’t get stuck in Anthony’s hands.
For the Celtics? There’s is Paul Pierce, who isn’t as reliable and consistent a scorer as he used to be, and there’s Jeff Green, averaging 19.1 points per game over the last 10 games. If they can get Brandon Bass, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry to be much more involved and successful offensively, maybe it’ll give them enough of a cushion to get their defense to make the difference. That’s a big maybe for a team without a point guard and only one win over .500 during the regular season, with an ever shrinking depth chart.
Prediction – Knicks in Five