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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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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 Celtics first round preview – four elements

April 17, 2011 7 comments

Although Celtics doesn’t have a lineup of unity and stability as last year’s, their performance on the defensive end this season remains impressive: they were rated the best in lowering opponents’ scores, second in defensive efficiency. Celtics Big 4 remains the most important factor of which – Paul Pierce had a career high in most efficient performance in his thirteenth season.

the Big 4

Two different stages for the Knicks need to be taken into consideration: before Carmelo Anthony arrives and after. But even when the team finally got Anthony and Chauncey Billups, they are still not very stable. Before trading, the team’s record was 28 wins, 26 losses, their winning percentage after the transaction was half and half as the final record of 42 wins 40 losses. New York is the third fastest team in the league, only one team made a few more three-point shot and hit than the Knicks, the Magic. There were not only more than 5 winning streak, but also more than 5 losing streak, instability will be their largest constraints in the 7 game series against the Celtics.

Celtics swept Knicks in the regular season, following are the five elements that lead the direction of this 7 game series.

1. The recovery of Raja Raondo.

The defense strength of the Celtics is not going to decrease in the playoffs, if not stronger. But their performance on the offensive end is dependent on the state of Raja Rondo. Rondo’s performance in the early season marked him the best point guard in the league, but after the All-Star break, Raja Rondo had a long downturn time – his assists were three times less than before the All-Star break, FG dropped from 50.2% to 43.3%. In the games when the Celtics won, Rondo had an average of 12.4 assists and 51.1% FG, in Celtics’ loses, Rondo averaged 8.5 assists and 40.5% FG.

Although Celtics can’t blame all their loses to Rondo, the other Big 3 didn’t contribute much as expected, which results a downturn for Rondo. Generally speaking, Raja Rondo is not the type of player who can run the whole team.

If Rondo can quickly retrieve his best condition, Celtics is looking for a great enhance on offensive side

2. Big Apple Team – style.

One of the biggest problems for the Knicks this season is to set a tone for the team’s style. Knicks’ style used to be a group of shooters on the outside, with a strong insider. Although Anthony and Billups got great talent, they didn’t involve themselves into this style immediately. To challenge one of the best defensive teams in the league, Knicks need to unify their game style as soon as possible

3. Fatigue

The Celtics has been putting their bet on hoping for a team break out. But they don’t have Kendrick Perkins this year – Kendrick contributed to the team a lot with his tenacity and strong defensive attitude.

Moreover,. Coach Doc Rivers didn’t have the Big 3 rest a lot at the end of the regular season, so the Knicks have the opportunity to use off Celtics’ fatigue.
4. Anthony, weakness in the playoffs

nba_melo_knicks_576.jpg (576×324)

Except reaching the Western Conference finals in 2009, Anthony and the Denver Nuggets only made a first round trip every single year. We can’t blame Anthony himself on all these failures, but at least as the biggest star of the team, he has responsibilities to the team. The key problem was that Anthony never really fit in the team’s general style.

But this does not mean that Anthony and the Knicks can’t find a common ground and overcome the Celtics in the first round at all. The Celtics’ defense focuses on cutting off passing lanes to destroy opponents’ offensive line, but Knicks has the league’s most powerful offensive group of two. Moreover, Celtics is good at breaking the opponent’s entire team offensive system instead one single player – however, Anthony is indeed the kind of player who can carry the team on his shoulders on the offensive end.

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