Melo and Amare take on The Big Four. Big Brother versus Little Brother. One old Garden compared to one new Garden. Stars in their prime face veteran leaders. Thin-sliced pizza against New England clam chowder.
Bring it on.
No first-round playoff series will generate more interest than the Knicks-Celtics matchup starting Sunday at 7:10 p.m. at TD Garden in Boston.
Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire have helped lead the Knicks to a 42-40 record this season, after a 29-53 record last season. Despite some setbacks in the past the couple of months, and with only a 14-14 record with Anthony on the team, there still remains a great deal of energy in New York.
This is the first trip to the playoffs for the Knicks since the 2003-2004 season, which is a long drought for a big city that boasts its strong devotion to hoops.
Up north, the Celtics are used to the playoffs. The 2007-2008 NBA Champions, and the defending Eastern Conference Champions, came within one quarter of winning the NBA title last season. With veterans Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Rajon Rondo still hungry for another ring, the Celtics are the favorites to win the series.
Like the Knicks, the Celtics have made changes to their roster. Gone are big man Kendrick Perkins and point guard Nate Robinson. In their place are center Nenad Krstic and forward Jeff Green.
Since the trade with Oklahoma City, the Celtics have a record of 15-11. There also has been some dissent in the ranks at the loss of Perkins, a burly center would helped clog up the low post.
Backup center Shaquille O'Neal can't be counted on for the postseason, and Rondo has battled sickness over the course of the season.
Against the Knicks, Boston has won all three games that mattered (the season finale was played at half-speed), which included a March 21st game at Madison Square Garden. Garnett led all scorers with 24, and tied for the most rebounds in the game at 11.
One of the big matchups to keep your eye in this opening-round series will be Anthony against Pierce. It will be a duel between two star small forwards -- both adept at using clever ways to space themselves for shots rather than raw athleticism.
Though Boston has the overall advantage, the Knicks will have a slightly rested Stoudemire who sat out three of the last four games, a smart and still effective point guard in former-Celtic Chauncey Billups, and a hot-shooting Anthony looking to make a splash in his first playoff series with his new club.
The Knicks certainly have an opportunity to make the series interesting.
Game one can't start soon enough.