The New York Knicks are set to face the Boston Celtics in the first round of the playoffs, but just how well the team performs against its longtime and hated rival depends on All-Star center Tyson Chandler. The 2012 Defensive Player of the Year has recently been slowed by a bulging disc in his neck, and has not appeared in any of New York’s last five games.
Granted, sitting Chandler for the last couple of contests could just have been a precautionary move on head coach Mike Woodson‘s part. At 7’1″, 240 pounds, Chandler is the Knicks’ best interior player, and losing him for any period of the playoffs could be a devastating blow to the team’s championship hopes.
Throw in that he averaged 10.4 points, 10.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game while shooting 64 percent from the field this season, and one can see just how valuable he is to New York.
The sad truth is that an injured Chandler is of no use to the Knicks, especially in the playoffs. Thus, he needs to get healthy in time to face a Celtics team that swept New York out of the first round of the postseason in 2011, ironically the same year that Chandler won a championship ring with the Dallas Mavericks.
Yes, New York did win the season series against Boston this year, three games to one, but that doesn’t take away from how strong the Celtics’ defense is. Though a weak rebounding team that finished second-to-last in that area, the Celtics managed to finish 10th in points allowed thanks to head coach Doc Rivers employing a strategy that calls for top-notch on-ball defense.
Also, no matter how you look at it, Celtics veteran and team leader Kevin Garnett is going to be a tough man to get past despite his being 36 years old and banged up. Unless Chandler is healthy and in top form, the Knicks could have a hard time establishing a game in the paint without anyone to slow Garnett down.
That all being said, though, Boston is not as strong a team as it was last season. The Knicks really need Chandler to be fully healthy in time for Saturday’s first playoff game. Otherwise, it could be a short ride for New York once again, and the fans are definitely not going to accept that this season.