The best time of the year is upon us again. The NBA playoffs is just over two weeks away; ’tis the time when the grind of the season separates the contenders from the wannabes, the champions from the aspirants, and most of all, when history is made. In short, this is what the Boston Celtics are all about. As fate would have it, the Celtics are set to face the Knicks to start this momentuous journey off.
(Ed: So, who else hates the Knicks? Design courtesy CelticsLife.)
The New York Knicks (53-27) are officially champs in the the Atlantic division, and have locked up the second seed in the Eastern Conference. The last time we faced the Knicks without KG this season, it resulted in a 108-89 loss at the Madison Square Garden. Postseason record
- Game 1: Sun, 21 Apr 2013, 0500hrs AEST at Madison Square Garden, New York
- Game 2: Wed, 24 Apr 2013, 1000hrs AEST at Madison Square Garden, New York
- Game 3: Sat, 27 Apr 2013, 1000hrs AEST at TD Garden, Boston
- Game 4: Mon, 29 Apr 2013, 0300hrs AEST at TD Garden, Boston
- Game 5: Thu, 2 May 2013, TBD at Madison Square Garden, New York *
- Game 6: Sat, 4 May 2013, TBD at TD Garden, Boston *
- Game 7: Mon, 6 May 2013, TBD at Madison Square Garde, New York *
* Scheduled if necessary.
NBA League Pass. Game 2 and Game 3 will be on ESPN live.
- Rajon Rondo (ACL) and Jared Sullinger (back) are both out for the season.
New York Knicks:
- Rasheed Wallace has chosen to retire before the postseason.
- Quentin Richardson has been signed to the roster as of 17 April 2013.
- Amar’e Stoudemire (knees) is out indefinitely.
- Marcus Camby (foot) is currently day-to-day.
- Tyson Chandler (neck) is currently day-to-day.
- Kenyon Martin (ankle) looks to be back for the playoffs, already working out at practice.
- Pablo Prigioni rolled his ankle on Hawks game, X-rays negative and is day-to-day. Questionable for Game 1.
- Chris Copeland suffered a shoulder injury on Hawks game, day-to-day and questionable for Game 1.
Top enemy performers (regular season)
- Carmelo Anthony – 28.7 PPG & 6.9 RPG
- J.R. Smith – 18.1 PPG & 5.3 RPG
- Raymond Felton – 13.9 PPG & 5.5 APG
- Tyson Chandler – 10.4 PPG & 10.7 RPG
Keys to the game
Health Health has always been an issue for the Celtics when the postseason comes around, and this year is no different. With Rondo and Sully out for the season, the Celtics will be forced to embark on their flight to Banner 18 without two valuable assets. Left with no alternative, we are forced to rely heavily on two of the oldest (and undoubtedly deadliest) weapons in our arsenal: Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.
As it is with Spiderman’s power and responsibility, with great age comes great weariness. If our two veterans are to compete at the highest level in the days ahead, the team need to do whatever it takes to keep these two healthy and rested. Although there is a far greater emphasis on keeping KG and Pierce in shape, the Celtics must not forget about the other guys on the team. With the throng of debiliating injuries suffered throughout this season, they simply cannot afford to lose another body. One injury could very well lead to a first-round exit this postseason.
Stifling Agent Smith We all know Carmelo Anthony can and will explode during this series. All the Celtics can do to remedy this situation, is to play great defense. The same thing Doc Rivers said about Kobe Bryant in the 2008 NBA Finals, could be said about Melo at this point: the Celtics cannot ‘overreact’ to anything he does. Shutting Melo down is a nigh impossible task when he is on a hot streak, and having Pierce cover Melo is likely to wear The Truth out later on. With that in mind, let us talk about potential Sixth Man candidate J.R. Smith instead. Smith is the other Knick who is offensively talented enough to create his own shot, and he is exactly where the Celtics should focus their defensive energy on. Fact: Melo will not be kicking the C’s in the nuts by utting up 70 points every game. He needs someone else to explode with him and recently, that someone has been J.R. Smith. Holding Smith’s output below his season average (18.1 PPG) is a crucial factor to winning this series. Depending on the lineup change, Bradley, Lee and even Williams could show their worth defensively on Smith. (Ed: I’m not hoping for JET or JCraw to stop JR. No sir, not at all.) So, let Melo be Melo. The Celtics will do their darndest to contain him, but they must shut down Smith. The Iron Man
Suit up, Iron Man. We are gonna need ya. It is important for Jeff Green to get it going early in the playoffs, both as a confidence boost and to get an offensive rhythm flowing. At this point, Green has proven himself to be a viable first option on the offensive end when Pierce and KG were absent. The Celtics need to unleash Green, period. Pierce and KG are going to be efficient 99% of the time. It does not however, change the fact that we need a third man to step up and carry some of the offensive load. Green has proven himself worthy of this honour with the recent boost in his offensive production. Of course, let us not forget the buzzer beaters he had against Indiana & Cleveland.
Beating the Knicks will not be an easy task. Not this year, at least. But it gives me a great sigh of relief to know that we still have two dependable stars on our side: KG, and the Knick-killer Paul Pierce. This is a test of will. This is a battle of warriors. In the end, age and skill will be a minimal factor in this game. Everything comes down to heart, and who wants it more when push comes to shove. And that, is exactly what we have. The Celtics are fighters who will give it their all and more, when everything is on the line. Most importantly, we are talking about a team that runs on heart and passion. Think about how the team has been torn apart by the player injuries thus far. For a team that has Kevin Garnett? We might be running low on a lot of things, but we will never run out of heart.
Heart, and heart alone, will get us through this series. #AussieCeltics