The first round heats up on Sunday when the Knicks face the Celtics at 7:10 p.m. eastern time at TD Garden in Boston.

Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire have helped lead the Knicks to their first trip to the playoffs since the 2003-2004 season, which is a long drought for a big city that boasts its strong devotion to hoops.

Mike D'Antoni's squad also has a smart veteran point guard in Chauncey Billups and a tough defender in rookie Landry Fields.

After a tumultuous season, the Knicks want to make some noise in the playoffs.

Standing in their way are the Celtics, who are used to going deep in the playoffs. The 2007-2008 NBA Champions, and the defending Eastern Conference Champions, came within one quarter of winning it all last season.

Veterans All-Stars Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Rajon Rondo remain hungry for another ring, making the third-seed Celtics favorites to win the series.

But like the Knicks, the Celtics have made changes to their roster, and there have been problems associated with the moves. 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 only 15-11. There also has been some dissent in the ranks with the loss of Perkins, a burly center would helped clog up the low post.

Shaquille O'Neal can't be counted on for the postseason due to injuries, giving the Celtics low-post defensive problems.

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 in this opening-round series will be Anthony against Pierce. It will be a duel between two star small forwards who know how to score by setting up their own shots.

Though Boston has the overall advantage, the Knicks have some things going for them. New York will have a slightly rested Stoudemire, a smart and still effective point guard in former-Celtic Billups, and a hot-shooting Anthony.

Will that be enough?

PREDICTION: Boston in seven. As strong as Boston is, the Knicks will be playing at their best, and should give the Celtics trouble. In the end, playoff experience will be the reason New York falls to Boston, as well as the Knicks' lack of depth.