Knicks v. Celtics, Game 1 Preview

April 18, 2011 6 comments

Skeptics arose when Amare Stoudemire boldly declared “the Knicks are back” after New York signed him to a five-year, $100 million deal, last July.

Those doubters have since been quieted after the Knicks (42-40) posted their first winning season since 2000-2001 to clinch the sixth spot in the Eastern conference.

The Knicks are back—in the playoffs, for the first time since 2004.

They now face a Boston Celtics (56-26) squad that stumbles into the first-round, having gone just 15-11 since the trade that sent starting center Kendrick Perkins to Oklahoma City.

It’s a matchup of the new “big-three” versus the old; hyper offense versus physical defense.  Stoudemire and midseason acquisitions Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups will lead the Knicks into TD Garden on Sunday to face off in what will be an intense matchup against the playoff-tested Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen.

The Knicks will need Anthony, who will be matched up with Pierce, to play brilliantly to have a chance to steal at least one of the first two games at Boston. One of the major advantages he brings to New York’s offense is that he excels in the half court-game that the Celtics often prefer. They will also need to play tough interior defense against the typically physical Celtic frontline which, fortunately for the Knicks, will be without Shaquille O’Neal for Game 1.

Boston, on the other hand, will need starting point guard Rajon Rondo to play closer to the level he was playing at when the Celtics reached the Finals last season and with the fire and accuracy he showed earlier this season. He has been largely inconsistent since the Perkins trade but will need to push the ball at every opportunity to use his speed against Billups. It will also make a world of a difference if he can make the open shots the Knicks will most certainly give him.

The Celtics will rely on their playoff battle-tested core to lead them once again through the adversity that has many picking the first-place Chicago Bulls or second-place Miami Heat as Eastern conference champion favorites. The Knicks will hope for the upset upon the shoulders of three veterans who have been deep into the playoffs in their respective careers.

The Knicks will certainly give the Celtics a run for their money and will not be an easy-out by any means. The buzz in playoff-starved Madison Square Garden will be electric and should propel the home team to a victory or two. In the end, however, the Knick offense will be unable to match the grind-it-out style that Doc Rivers and his Celtics have become accustomed to the past four seasons and will fall short of pulling off the upset.

Celtics in six.

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NBA Playoffs: Knicks-Celtics preview

April 17, 2011 7 comments

Following the trade of Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups, Knicks fans eagerly anticipated a chance to make it to the NBA playoffs, somewhere they haven’t been since 2004. Now seated sixth in the Eastern Conference, the Knicks are officially playoff slated and are set to go against the Boston Celtics, a long-standing rival since 1990. A lot of anticipation leading up to the Knicks-Celtics game tonight at 7:00 p.m.

For Knicks fans the Anthony and Billups trade created an elite three when combined with Amare Stoudemire and the momentum that the Knicks needed to ride into a play off spot. Anthony is averaging 30.3 points and 49.0 percent shooting the past nine games. Although Stoudemire was out that past few games due to a sprained left ankle, his return to the court for the playoffs is highly anticipated.

New York is hoping to roll with the positive wave, using the seven game winning streak it had, before the Bills put a stop to it last Tuesday, as an adrenaline rush on Boston’s court, the home court advantage the Celtics are hoping to use for themselves.

A rocky lope to the playoffs, the Celtics are seated third in the Eastern Conference, but have had many bumps along the way. They traded starting center Kendrick Perkins to Oklahoma City, causing discontent and altering the chemistry of the Celtics starting line up. Upsetting losses, including games against the Washington and Chicago, did little for the Celtics’ morale, but they’re in the playoffs – enough said.

Below is the complete schedule for the Knicks-Celtics playoff games:

Game 1: Sunday at Boston, 7 p.m.
Game 2: Tuesday at Boston, 7 p.m.
Game 3: Friday, April 22, at New York; 7 p.m.
Game 4: Sunday, April 24, at New York; 3:30 p.m.
Game 5 (if necessary): Tuesday, April 26, at Boston; time TBD
Game 6 (if necessary): Friday, April 29, at New York; time TBD
Game 7 (if necessary): Sunday, May 1, at Boston; time TBD

Categories: NBA

Knicks vs. Celtics Preview

April 17, 2011 7 comments


The New York Knicks head to TD Garden in Boston tonight for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Boston Celtics.  This match up will feature the defending Eastern Conference Champion Celtics versus the up and coming, yet unproven, Knicks.  The Celtics come into this series as the clear favorite and after making trips to the NBA Finals the last two years; this will be a tough out for the new-look Knicks.  Some key things to watch in this series:

–       Amare vs. KG – From the time Amar’e Stoudemire declared this past off season that “the Knicks are back” he has been the leader of the Knicks on and off the court.  Even though the Knicks traded for two additional superstars in Carmello Anthony and Chauncey Billups this February, Amar’e still sets the tone for this Knick team.  This season in games that the Knicks won Amar’e shot over 54% from the field, whereas in losses he shot only 46%.  He will face a tough defensive test in Kevin Garnett, a 15 year veteran and a known shut-down defender.  KG has played very well versus the Knicks this year, averaging almost 23 points per game, well over his season average of 14.9.  If Amar’e can overcome KG’s tough defense and set the pace for the Knicks, he will have a chance at leading NY to an upset.

–       Can Chauncey Billups keep up with Rajon Rondo? – At 34 years of age, Billups will be given the task of trying to defend one of the NBA’s fastest and most dynamic point guards in the 25 year old Rajon Rondo.  Both players are playoff-tested former NBA champs, with Chauncey taking home the Finals MVP in 2004.  Rondo, averaging 16 assists per game against the Knicks this season, will be a difficult assignment for the veteran Billups, who has been slowed down in his time with the Knicks because of multiple nagging injuries.  If Rondo runs circles around Chauncey, it will likely be a short series for the Knicks.

–       Can Melo walk the walk? – Not since his years in Syracuse will Carmello Anthony be under a bigger microscope or under more pressure to deliver than he will in these first few games against the Celtics.  After demanding a trade from the Denver Nuggets earlier this season, Carmello got his wish and is now leading his childhood favorite New York Knicks into the playoffs.  After months of rumors, innuendo, drama, and the shipment of three Knicks starters to the Nuggets, its now all on Carmello’s shoulders to deliver.  The good news, at least, for Knicks fans is that back in 2003 when the pressure was on he carried Syracuse all the way to a National Championship.  Knicks fans would likely settle for less this year, but if Carmello gets hot, the sky is the limit for this Knicks team.

Prediction: Celtics in 5

Knicks vs. Celtics Preview

April 17, 2011 6 comments

Following a decade of embarrassment and mediocrity, the Knicks have finally made it back to the NBA playoffs.

Reaching the postseason for the first time since 2004, New York will draw a veteran Celtics group who has won all four meetings between the two this season.  Both teams are also coming off major roster shakeups with the intention of building for the future.

The Knicks added Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups to go along with Amare Stoudemire, forming a “big three” that will allow the team to at least compete for a title, something they haven’t been able to say since 1999.

The Celtics recently moved center and enforcer Kendrick Perkins, who was viewed by many as the heart of Boston’s interior defense.  A close friend to many of the Celtic players, most notably Rajon Rondo, the team was not afraid to express their discontent with the deal.  They did however bring in Jeff Green from Oklahoma City, a versatile wing player who was averaging 15.2 points per game prior to the trade.

The Knicks have been up and down since Carmelo’s arrival, losing nine of ten at one point before rebounding with a seven game winning streak.  Anthony’s presence on the floor hasn’t been an easy transition for everyone, as rookie Landy Fields has seen his numbers dip across the board since the deal.

The Knicks 106.5 points per game ranks second in the NBA, however their 105.7 points allowed makes them the 28th worst defense.  Boston on the other hand leads the league in points allowed, only giving up 91 per game.

New York has struggled to find an answer for Paul Pierce this season, who has torched the Knicks in fourth quarters on a regular basis.

Boston is not playing their best basketball entering the series, finishing 10-11 in their last 21 games.  New York’s success will depend highly on their ability to keep Rondo out of the paint, who just crushes teams with his quickness and ability to break down the defense. Coach Mike D’antoni has said he plans on using forward Jared Jeffries on Rajon Rondo, with the idea of combating quickness with length.

On an injury note, the Celtics will be without center Shaquille O’neal, who has missed 45 games this season due to a foot injury.  Shaq failed a running test in practice, and has been ruled out indefinitely.

This will be the teams’ first meeting in the postseason since 1990, when the Knicks defeated the Celtics in five games in the first round.

Categories: NBA

Knicks vs Celtics: Playoff Preview

April 17, 2011 10 comments

The New York Knicks are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2004. As the sixth seeded team in the Eastern Conference the Knicks will face off against the Boston Celtics who earned the three seed with a 56-26 regular season record. The Knicks finished the regular season with a 42-40 record. It was their first winning season since 2000. Boston swept the regular season series winning all four contests.

The two teams each made a significant trade late in the season. The Knicks dealt Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton and Timofey Mozgov to Denver for Carmello Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Sheldon Williams, Anthony Carter and Renaldo Balkman. Initially the team had a hard time gelling with the addition of a superstar player of Anthony’s caliber, but the Knicks finished the season strong going 7-3 in their last 10 games.

The Celtics traded Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson to Oklahoma City for Jeff Green and Nenad Kristic. Although Green is a promising young player, the trade was controversial because Perkins was very popular among his teammates. It can’t be good for team chemistry when players are crying and hugging each other in the locker room after hearing about a trade, which was the case in Boston when the Celtics learned that “Perk” had been dealt.

“It’s not even about a teammate. It felt like you lost a family member today,” Celtics veteran power forward Kevin Garnett said about the trade. “Tough day.”

Not only was Perkins an emotional leader off the court, he brought a lot of intangibles to the court. His pure size and bulk makes him tough for any team to deal with inside. His selfless role-player’s mentality was crucial to Boston’s success. And his toughness gave the Celtics a level of intimidation that seems to have dissipated, especially with their other centers, Shaquille O’Neal and Jermaine O’Neal, battling injuries.

Whether or not the trade had anything to do with it, the Celtics stumbled to the finish line going 5-5 in their last 10. They will need to regain their intensity if they hope to get back to the finals in what is becoming an increasingly competitive Eastern Conference.

THE STARS:

Each team has a core of proven veteran superstar players. For the Knicks Amar’e Stoudemire and Anthony provide the one-two punch. Stoudemire averaged 25.2 points per game, and 8.2 rebounds per game and Anthony finished the year at 25.6 PPG and 7.3 RPG. The offense shouldn’t be a problem for the Knicks, if they are going to win this series though they are simply going to have to play better defense than they have the entire season. Amar’e can be a factor on the inside defensively with his freakish athleticism. He averaged nearly two blocks per game on the year. He will have to make sure to stay out of foul trouble because the Knicks really cannot afford to have him lose any playing time. Many have suggested that Anthony steps up his defense in big games; well it’s time to see if that is true.

The Celtics still have their ballyhooed “big three” of Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. The triumvirate led Boston to a championship in 2008 and they were back in the finals last year where they fell to their longtime arch rivals the Los Angeles Lakers. The most impressive aspect of “the big three” is how each of them was able to alter their games to fit what the team needed to be successful. Something that is not easy to do as was proved by the Miami heat and their “big three” this year.

KEY MATCHUP:

It is no secret that Chauncey Billups isn’t the player he was during his prime years playing for the Pistons. Billups is still smart and tough, and willing and able to hit a big shot, but he has certainly lost a step. That being said, he will have a hard time matching up with the Celtics lightning fast point guard Rajon Rondo. Rondo set a career high with 24 assists against the Knicks in the teams’ first meeting of the season. He showed what he is capable of last year in the playoffs when he had two triple-doubles including a 29 PTS, 18 REB, 13 ASST and 2 STL performance against the Cavaliers.

Though he is not mentioned in among “the big three” for Boston, at this point in all their careers Rondo is certainly in the same tier as them. In fact, he is probably the single most important player for the Celtics because as the point guard he runs their entire offense.

Rondo has publicly stated that Perkins was his best friend on the team and he has not seemed to be the same player since the trade.

X-FACTOR:

The Knicks might consider starting Toney Douglass at point guard because he has the speed and defensive ability to better matchup with Rondo. Douglass has shown the ability to change games with his three point shooting ability; however, he will also go through long cold streaks. For the Knicks to be successful, Douglass needs to make smart decisions on when to shoot and when to pass. In addition, the rest of the Knicks are going to have to compensate for the energy that is lost from having Landry Fields get less playing time.

PREDICTION – CELTICS IN 6

Honestly, the Knicks will be lucky to gut out two wins in this series. The Celtics are a championship caliber team. Don’t read anything into their late season swoon. Many teams that are successful year after year lose interest in the weeks leading up to the playoffs when their fate is pretty much written. Boston will flip the switch back on they will be at the top of their game right out of the gate.

The Knicks are starting to put the pieces in place. They have the superstars, which is the hard part. In the coming years they will have to surround Stoudemire and Anthony with some better role players, particularly big men. The biggest hole on the Knicks roster is their lack of a true center.

Expect all the games to be close. The Knicks can score with anyone and they realize they have an incredible opportunity in front of them. Their energy should be unbelievable and as long as they can stay focused they should be in every game. In the end the depth and experience of the Celtics will be enough for them pull through.

Knicks vs. Celtics Playoff Preview

April 17, 2011 9 comments

knicks-celtics

By Phil Hecken

The New York Knicks (42-40) secured the No. 6 seed in this year’s Eastern Conference playoffs, and will matchup with their longtime rival, the Boston Celtics (56-26) Sunday evening. The Celtics are the No. 3 seed and have the home-court advantage.

On paper, this looks like a mis-match, and indeed it may be. But games aren’t played on paper, they’re settled on the court, and the series may indeed be epic. For the underdog Knicks, almost everything would have to go right for them to emerge victorious.

Season Series:

The Knicks lost all four games they played against the Celtics this season. While two of those games were played before the “mega trade” the Knicks completed with the Denver Nuggets for Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups, and their final matchup was a meaningless game played on the final day of the season, this does not bode well for the Knicks. Not only were the Knicks winless at TD Garden, Boston’s home arena, they haven’t won a game there since November 26, 2006.

Advantage: Celtics

Hot & Not:

Prior to dropping their final two games (which were basically meaningless as the Knicks had already locked themselves into the sixth seed at that point), the Knicks had gone on a seven game winning streak. The Celtics, on the other hand, finished the regular season going a pedestrian 10-11.

Advantage: Knicks

Old vs. Young:

The Celtics “Big Four” (Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo) are stalwarts, but three of them may be “past their primes” — Pierce is 33, Garnett is 34 and Allen is 35. Not old by any means, but by NBA standards, they are a bit long in the tooth. In contrast, the Knicks “Big Three” (Amar’e Stoudemire, Anthony and Billups) are comparatively younger — Stoudemire is 28 and Anthony is 26; Billups is the oldest of the troika at 34.

Advantage: Knicks

First Things First:

For the Knicks to win this series, they will need at least one win at TD Garden. Not a single player on the current Knicks team has emerged from the TD Garden victorious as a Knick. That’s no small feat to overcome. They must figure out how to win on their opponent’s court.

Advantage: Celtics

Experience Factor:

While the New York Knicks have not made the playoffs as a team in seven seasons, that does not mean no one on the team is without playoff experience. Au contraire, due to trades and free agent signings over the past few years, individually the players have a wealth of playoff experience. Stoudemire has been to the Western Conference finals twice, Anthony has been to the conference finals once, and Billups has played in 139 playoff games already — including 11 years in a row with six consecutive conference finals, and two NBA finals. Not only that, he owns a ring (winning the NBA finals in 2004 with the Pistons), a series in which he was named Finals MVP. Billups has also raised his game in the playoffs, averaging a full two points (17.8 vs. 15.5) higher than his regular season average.

The Celtics starters all have plenty of playoff experience, most of whom won the title in 2008 and returning to the title series last season.

Advantage: Celtics

Rivalry?:

Despite being two of the oldest teams in terms of NBA heritage, there really isn’t much of a “rivalry” between the two teams. The Celtics are the most decorated franchise in professional basketball (having won 17 championships, tied for most with the LA Lakers) while the Knicks have only two. While the Knicks have enjoyed several periods of success throughout their tenure, they have never been “good” at the same times the Celtics have. In fact, they have not met each other in the playoffs since 1990. The only time the two teams have been true powers was during the late 1960s and early 1970s, when the Knicks thrice defeated the Celtics in the Conference finals (1972-74) and once in the Eastern Division finals (1969).

Advantage: Celtics

Fighter’s Chance?:

For the Knicks to win this series, they not only need to win at least one game in Boston, they need to dictate the play in order to do so. The Knicks are a younger, more explosive team and will need to play a lot of run-and-gun and hope their shots fall. Knicks Coach Mike D’Antoni runs a system based on a lot of individual offense, not set plays, and the Knicks will have to hope they can get the Celtics into foul trouble early and often. Boston, on the other hand, plays a slow and methodical offense and a stifling defense, and will hope to frustrate the Knicks in a lot of half-court sets. The Knicks best (and perhaps only) chance will be to sprint out to early leads, tiring out the older Celtics starters, and hoping they ride the pine either through fatigue or foul trouble.

Advantage: To Be Determined

Starters:

Shooting Guard:

Landry Fields vs. Ray Allen: This may not be a fair fight, as Fields is a rookie matching up against one of the best in the history of the NBA. Allen is not only the league’s best sharpshooter, he also now owns the NBA record for three-point field goals. Fields isn’t bad, and had a very good first half, but Allen shot 49 percent from the field and 44 percent from behind the arc this year. His experience will also be a huge factor.

Advantage: Celtics

Point Guard:

Chauncey Billups vs. Rajon Rondo: Rondo is younger and faster than Billups, who has also been injury prone with the Knicks. But Billups has more experience and has played well (when he has been healthy) for the Knicks. Still, Rondo played extremely well in last year’s playoffs (completely outplaying LeBron James, no small feat), so any experience Billups has is negated.

Advantage: Celtics

Small Forward:

Carmelo Anthony vs. Paul Pierce: Pierce loves beating the Knicks. Melo is new to the team. Pierce is still a mega-star who has learned how to win in the team-first ethic the Celtics have acquired over the past three seasons. Melo seems to be best when he freelances. However, Anthony is much younger and stronger, and possesses more talent than Pierce. Anthony has also been the team’s leading rebounder the past month (which isn’t necessarily a good thing). This may be the most even matchup of all, and the winner may just determine who wins the series. But even if Melo outplays Pierce, it may not be enough.

Advantage: Tossup

Power Forward:

Amar’e Stoudemire vs. Kevin Garnett: Amar’e proclaimed “The Knicks Are Back” when he signed as a mega-free agent in the offseason, and he has backed up those words by leading the Knicks into the playoffs. He’s the teams spiritual and emotional leader, and is bigger, faster, younger and stronger than Garnett. KG, on the other hand, is an outstanding defender and rebounder, and he too, is the leader of his team. As much as the Anthony vs. Pierce matchup may decide the series, this one may swing the “heart” battle. If Stoudemire can outplay Garnett, that’s one thing, if he can out-lead him, the Knicks have a chance.

Advantage: Knicks

Center:

Ronny Turiaf (or Shelden Williams/Jared Jeffries) vs. Jermaine O’Neal (or Nenad Kristic/Shaquille O’Neal): While the center position was at one time the most important position on a team, in this series, it’s almost an afterthought. Once one of the league’s best big men, Shaq, may not even play, due to injuries, and if he does see floor time, it will be limited. Neither team truly has an effective big man, and this will likely be the most substituted position on both sides. Jermaine O’Neal for the Celtics is probably the best of all the players on either team, but he too may be limited in his minutes. Should either or both of the O’Neals see significant time, that could tip this to the Celtics. It won’t be a big factor in the series, however.

Advantage: Push

Reserves, Coach & Other Intangibles:

Coach:

Mike D’Antoni vs. Doc Rivers: Doc took the Celtics to the finals last year and won them three years ago. He is a “team first” coach and a good motivator. D’Antoni believes in lots of offense and very little defense, but he seems to be bringing the team together into a more cohesive unit over the past few weeks of the season. D’Antoni has never won a championship, and many believe his style of coaching will never do so until he focuses more on defense.

Advantage: Celtics

Bench:

Assuming Turiaf starts at center, the Knicks will have Anthony Carter, Toney Douglas, Jared Jeffries, Shawane Williams, Shelden Williams and Bill Walker (hardly a murderers row) versus Carlos Arroyo, Glen “Big Baby” Davis, Jeff Green, Nenad Krstic, Troy Murphy, Shaquille O’Neal and Delonte West. While neither bench is particularly good or deep, the Celtics possess better players — their problem is many of them are hurt. Their best player off the bench is Big Baby, who may have become a “Sixth Man of the Year” candidate. Still, they will need their starters to give them deep minutes. The Knicks bench is not particularly good or deep, and D’Antoni has said he may try to “shorten” it to just three. If the Knicks starters can play many minutes this may work out well — if foul trouble or fatigue causes D’Antoni to need to use more reserves, it could spell big trouble for the Knicks.

Advantage: Celtics

Intangibles:

As a team, the Celtics have been here (the playoffs) before and have played together much longer than the Knicks. While the Knicks may have more talent and can win the series, too much has to go right for that to happen. They would need to play their run-and-gun style to perfection and have close to 50 percent from the floor, while simultaneously being able to play some defense to keep the Celtics at bay. The Knicks may be younger team on the rise, while the Celtics may be older and beginning a decline, but it might take a miracle for the Knicks to overtake them (particularly with the Celtics having the homecourt advantage) this time around.

PREDICTION:

Celtics in five.

Categories: NBA

Does gentle or not matter that much in a tough NBA game?

April 17, 2011 Leave a comment

The NBA fined Kobe Bryant $100,000 on Wednesday for using a derogatory gay term in frustration over a referee’s call.

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“Kobe Bryant’s comment during last night’s game was offensive and inexcusable,”NBA commissioner David Stern said. “While I’m fully aware that basketball is an emotional game, such a distasteful term should never be tolerated. … Kobe and everyone associated with the NBA know that insensitive or derogatory comments are not acceptable and have no place in our game or society.”

Bryant’s words and actions were captured by TNT’s cameras during the network’s national broadcast of the Lakers’ regular-season home finale. It didn’t take long for the society to criticize on his words, which embarrasses the NBA – which has been trying to keep a proper image in public for long.

“What I said last night should not be taken literally. My actions were out of frustration during the heat of the game, period,” Bryant said in a statement issued through the Lakers. “The words expressed do NOT reflect my feelings towards the gay and lesbian communities and were NOT meant to offend anyone.”

The NBA – National Basketball Association has long become a show instead of athletic event, Commissioner David Stern has been pursuing in every aspect in an effort of making NBA a more financially profiting organization, and this includes setting up a positive image in front of public. From this point of view, the NBA has every right to fine Bryant for his furious words.

After all, the league is like a company with hundreds of player employees – when players do something that hurts the firm’s image, fine follows, just like what a employer would do to its employees.

For sure Kobe Bryant’s public reputation is going to suffer from this, especially within gay or lesbian community. But come on, we like him because of his talent in this sports, his spirit of overcoming difficult times in games. We don’t like him for manner, not that it’s the right thing to do to use these terrible words, but please, we like him because of his sport talent, why paying so much attention on his personal manner, especially if it’s only a sign of pure frustration?

On the other hand, if it wasn’t for the TNT national broadcasting, would Bryant’s “insensitive comments” not make such a big deal to public? We all know basketball is an emotional game where many players choose “dirty talk” to express their frustration or to disturb the opponent. Even Michael Jordan – a positive image representative of the NBA admit that he dirty talks a lot during game, no big deal.

Would the audience want to watch a game where players ask gently before shooting: “shall I shoot?” or “Excuse me, I’m going to block your shot, watch out please”?

Categories: NBA