Regular Season Records: Boston Celtics 41-40 vs. New York Knicks 54-28
The 2013 NBA playoffs have finally arrived and it is time to see if the Boston Celtics are real contenders for this year’s NBA title. They enter the postseason as the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs. Their first opponent will be the Atlantic Division champion and second seeded New York Knicks.
This will be a huge challenge for the Celtics, as the Knicks have finished the regular season playing great basketball. They have won sixteen of their last eighteen games and have been among the NBA’s best three point shooting teams all season long. Additionally, they have shown in the last month that they are a very good defensive team that rebounds the basketball on both ends of the floor.
For the Celtics to beat the Knicks in this series they will of course need Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to be at the top of their games. But, that will not be enough. If they are going to beat the Knicks they will need the following things to happen.
Rebound the basketball
The Celtics have had difficulty rebounding the basketball all season long, especially on the offensive end of the floor. If they continue this trend against the Knicks they will find a quick exit from the playoffs. This will have to be a team effort, but the responsibility for this task really falls on the shoulders of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jeff Green, Brandon Bass, Chris Wilcox and Shavlik Randolph. They do not need each player to step up in every game, but a combination of players to step up throughout the series.
Defend the Perimeter
The Knicks have proven to be a great outside shooting team that shoots 37.6 percent from the three point line. Their attack is spearheaded by Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith and Steve Novak, but there are many others like Jason Kidd and Raymond Felton on the roster that are dangerous from outside the arc. To limit their effectiveness the Celtics will have to pressure the ball and be able to rotate defensively well enough to get to the spots where the Knicks want to shoot the ball on the perimeter. This will also take a complete team effort, but with Kevin Garnett and Avery Bradley taking the lead, the Celtics should make it tough for the Knicks to get an abundance of easy shots in this series.
Production from Jeff Green
Jeff Green has been considered the X factor for the Celtics all season long and it is certainly the case in this series. They need him to play aggressively on offense and put in the type of effort that has been typical of him in the second half of the season and highlighted with a forty three point performance against the Miami Heat on March 18th.
However, it is not just his offense that is needed in this series. The Celtics need him to step up defensively and diminish the impact of Carmelo Anthony. He has been successful at containing Anthony recently, holding him to 38.7 percent shooting from the field in the last two meetings between the teams in the regular season.
Scoring from Avery Bradley
Bradley has struggled this season only shooting 40 percent from the field and slightly less than 32 percent from the three point line. It may have been too much to expect that he could return from double shoulder surgery and shoot 50 percent from the field and 40 percent from the three point line as he did last season. That said, the Celtics will need more offensively from him in this series than they got during the regular season. Nevertheless, it may be too much to expect at this time.
Bench needs to pick up the slack
It is probable that head coach Doc Rivers will play Jason Terry, Courtney Lee, Jordan Crawford Chris Wilcox and Shavlik Randolph of the bench in this series. Each player has had a specific role this season. Terry and Jordan are expected to provide volume scoring, Lee is expected to provide defense and timing scoring and Wilcox and Randolph are expected to provide energy and rebounding. For the Celtics to move on to the Eastern Conference semi-finals, they will need their bench players to perform their roles at a high level. The Celtic bench is fully capable of succeeding at their tasks. While they have been inconsistent this season, look for them to play well in this series.
Beating the Knicks will be a huge challenge for the Celtics. The Knicks are a great three point shooting team that plays solid defense. For the Celtics to win this series they will need to rebound, play excellent perimeter defense and get great play from Jeff Green, Avery Bradley and their bench players. Look for the Celtics to step up to the challenge and make this a long series that will test the Knicks mentally. Nonetheless, given the Celtics inconsistent play this season it is difficult to predict if they will do enough to defeat the Knicks and move on to the next round.