Game 1: Saturday, April 20 – Celtics at Knicks – 3 p.m. (ABC)
Game 2: Tuesday, April 23 – Celtics at Knicks – 8 p.m. (TNT)
Game 3: Friday, April 26 – Knicks at Celtics – 8 p.m. (ESPN)
Game 4: Sunday, April 28 – Knicks at Celtics – 1 p.m. (ABC)
Game 5*: Wednesday, May 1 – Celtics at Knicks – TBD
Game 6*: Friday, May 3 – Knicks at Celtics – TBD
Game 7*: Sunday, May 5 – Celtics at Knicks – TBD
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The Celtics lost the season series to the Knicks 3 games to 1. The Celtics started four different lineups vs. the Knicks during the regular season.
Get it to:
Jay: Jeff Green
We know what Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce will bring to the table. We also know that they simply can’t sustain their hall-of-fame-out-of-their-prime level of play for longer than 25 minutes. If they do, it’s typically for one or two games in a series. Since winning the championship in 2008, this has been the story. It’s unfair to expect them to do that but it’s not unfair to ask that effort from the likes of Jeff Green. Since the all-star break, Green has looked more and more like that player Danny Ainge thought he could be. In the playoffs since 2008, Rajon Rondo has carried this team with incredible performances in multiple games, in multiple series. He’s injured in case you haven’t heard, but Green is not. If the C’s have a chance at the upset, Green has to be that guy that explodes in the playoffs for several games within the series.
Nick: Jeff Green
The Knicks just don’t have enough bigs to match up with the “big” line up of the Celtics. Pick your poison between Garnett, Green or Pierce. Green having a good series here may give them enough momentum to take this thing to the house.
John: Paul Pierce
While I agree with the sentiment that a stellar Jeff Green performance will be a potentially series-changing event, I still say the offense needs to be run through Pierce. The Celtics can survive an average performance from Jeff Green. They can’t survive one from Paul Pierce. He loves this stage. He loves draining daggers at MSG. Let the captain do his thing, and everything flows from there.
Chuck: Kevin Garnett
He’s rested and ready for battle. I’m expecting a heavy dose of pick-and-pops with Paul Pierce. His mid-range shooting forces Tyson Chandler away from the basket. As Carmelo Anthony and Knicks fans know, KG is also the games’ greatest trash talker, fully capable of getting inside Melo’s head.
Jay: JR Smith
Carmelo Anthony is a lethal scorer and will get his shots up. If the regular season is any indication, he’ll score about 35-40 ppg against the Celtics but it might require 40-50 shots. JR Smith on the other hand, has been a problem. Except in the C’s lone win at MSG earlier this year. In the loss, Smith shot 3-16 (1-6 on threes) good for 9 points in 35 minutes. In the three wins, he shot 24-54 (5-13 on threes) good for nearly 24 points per game. He’s also averaged over 7 rebounds per game and has generally been a pain. He might be too big for Avery Bradley to contain, but collectively the C’s need to pay attention to him on run outs and boxing out.
Nick: JR Smith
Carmelo is going to get his points. The Celtics have proven in the past they can beat a superstar, but allowing two players to go off spells disaster.
John: Everyone not named “Carmelo”
This is standard operating procedure when facing a team like the Knicks where one guy does such a huge bulk of the scoring. Single-cover Melo, and if he goes off, so be it. Even if he scores 40, you can hold the Knicks to 90 if you limit the rest of the team. Rotations have to be crisp but in control.
Chuck: JR Smith
While he shot poorly against the Celtics this season (39%), he still lit them up for 20 ppg and 7 rpg. The Celtics second unit (Jason Terry, Courtney Lee, Chris Wilcox) has been woefully inconsistent this season. They’ll need to bear down on Smith defensively and counter his explosiveness with some points of their own.
The Wild Card:
Jay: Jason Terry
We’ve all heard Terry’s quotes and big game talk since the day he was signed. We’ve also heard and read from several ex-teammates and writers about how great he is in the playoffs. He’s proven it before, but he’s also had a sensationally disappointing regular season here in Boston. Much like another aging, mid-level exception class of 2010 ex-Celtic Rasheed Wallace, Terry can go a long way to change the minds and memories of Celtics fans by being the 2011 playoff JET. He’s out of excuses (ahem, ‘this style of play is more conducive to me’), the fans are out of patience and the Celtics are out of time.
Nick: Jordan Crawford
Wanted to say Avery Bradley here but I feel that having a strong bench is going to put the Celtics over the top here. Crawford should be the go-to guy off the bench for scoring.
John: Jason Terry
JET’s run his mouth a lot lately. If he can back it up and be the boost the C’s need off the bench, then Boston will look like a new team. If he can’t, this series will be a struggle.
Chuck: Jason Terry
The only way Terry can atone for a miserably mediocre regular season is for his jumper to magically appear in the playoffs. The Knicks can score points in bunches so it’s crucial for Terry to boost production from the second unit. And I expect a lot of close games, we’ll also need Terry’s clutch genes.
How we see it goin’ down
It’s all about the threes. The Knicks are a wildly successful team when the three-pointers are falling. It’s like playing NBA Jam against someone that gets on fire and drills threes incessantly, just demoralizing you. Then you play them again with the exact same teams and you win because they can’t make a single shot. It’s not exactly that simple, but the matchups are so close that it does come down to Doc’s favorite quote “It’s a make or miss league.” The Knicks have looked fantastic in the last few weeks while the Celtics have looked abysmal for the most part. KG has barely played and when he has, he’s entered and exited the arena in a walking boot. Tyson Chandler has missed plenty of the Knicks’ recent winning streaks with a neck issue, but they have found ways to win without their defensive anchor. Paul Pierce either does or doesn’t have ankle issues.
For legacies and for recent tragedies surrounding Boston, the Celtics will not go down without a drawn out, nasty fight. They never do and they rarely make it easy (they even made the fans sweat out two very close home games in the 2011 sweep on the Knicks). The Knicks have taken over the Atlantic (for whatever that’s worth). They’ve been chatting about an Eastern Conference Finals matchup with Miami all season long basically. They feel like they have that swagger, that attitude, that “it’s OUR time” mentality. The Celtics have been a .500 team, whichever version of their team you want to use, all season long. They have been atrocious on the road, finishing with just two more road wins than the 2007 “let’s tank for Oden or Durant” year. (another side note: this is the first season since that 2007 year, that they have finished with a negative point differential).
Everything points to the Knicks taking this series and perhaps finally ending the wonderfully too short KG-era in Boston. The Celtics finally won the elusive 17th title in 2008 and since then have been screwed by devastating injuries. Unfortunately, their season ultimately ended on January 27th, when they peaked with a scintillating win over Miami, simultaneously losing Rondo for the year. Also unfortunately, Father Time will not allow Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to be their best for more than what the team needs. It pains me to say it, but the Knicks will take the series in a brutal 7 game series.
The playoffs shine a very bright, pressure-packed spotlight on teams, often reducing them to what they are at their core. The Knicks, I believe, have two players that have the potential to wilt under that spotlight: Carmelo Anthony and JR Smith. Anthony’s “wilting” will be forgetting about teammates and trying to do it all himself. Smith’s will be similar as he forces up bad shots in pressure situations.
Only one team has ever taken more than 2000 3’s during the regular season and advanced to the Finals, and that was the 2009 Magic squad that barely squeaked by the Garnett-less Celtics. That type of offense is not sustainable in the playoffs… and it won’t be sustainable versus the Celtics.
I think Boston rides an emotional high to start game 1 and steals the first game of this series. From there, it’s a home court battle.
Celtics in 6.
Nick: Celtics in 6
I’m expecting a tightly contested 7 game series. I was leaning with the Knicks. I figured the Celtics were too inconsistent to beat a team as good as New York four out of seven times. But the horrific events of the past week have changed my mind. I think the Celtics – led by master motivators Doc Rivers and Kevin Garnett – can ride the tidal wave of emotion in the city of Boston – and use it to their advantage.
As far as Xs and Os go, the Celtics must defend the perimeter. The Knicks are one of the best three-point shooting teams in the league and it’s that trigger happy mentality that helps them score points in bunches. The Celtics rank 4th in opponents 3P FG%. Avery Bradley and Courtney Lee need to lock down the perimeter and the Celtics defensive rotations must be crisp to limit New York.
Celtics in 7.