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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.