Boston Celtics vs. New York Knicks Game 1: Preview, Analysis and Prediction
NBA Playoffs: Knicks-Celtics Game 1 Preview
Not only has New York abandoned the fast-paced, run-and-gun game of former head coach Mike D'Antoni, but his replacement Mike Woodson now has the team playing some of its best basketball in a decade. For the first time in a long time, the Knicks are in the playoffs as a team that could really make a lot of noise.
It also helps that the team has some fine interior defensive players in Tyson Chandler and veteran Kenyon Martin. Combined with the efforts of the league's top scorer in Carmelo Anthony and others, this is a roster that is truly something special.
But that doesn't mean that the Celtics are a team to be written off quickly. Though they pretty much underachieved all season long, this is still the squad that came within one win of a spot in the finals last year. Combined with tough defense and veteran leadership, this team definitely has what it takes to give New York a hard time from start to finish.
Just the same, that does not take away from the fact that out of these two aging rosters, Boston is the one that is at more of a disadvantage. Not only is Game 1 in front of a rowdy New York crowd at Madison Square Garden, but the Knicks took the season series, three games to one.
Throw in that the cities of New York and Boston hate each other in the sports world, historically speaking, and you've got yourself a game that is not to be missed under any circumstances.
Key Storyline: Which Banged Up Team Reigns Supreme?
One thing that is particularly interesting about both the Knicks and Celtics is just how many injuries each team is dealing with coming into the first game of the series. Boston has been without star point guard Rajon Rondo since January due to his torn ACL, and New York star (and I use that term loosely) big man Amar'e Stoudemire is out recovering from yet another knee surgery.
Boston also lost rookie Jared Sullinger to back surgery, and veteran Paul Pierce has been slowed by a sore knee.
Besides Stoudemire, the only man down for New York appears to be backup point guard is Pablo Prigioni, a 35-year-old rookie who made his NBA debut this season and solidified himself as a decent defender and shooter in the Big Apple.
That said, it's going to be interesting to see how both New York and Boston deal with the injuries that have plagued their rosters for most of the season. Neither team really has an upper hand, but one can't help but think New York has the edge simply due to how important Pierce has been for Boston in years past.
All we can really do is wait and see.
Celtics Player to Watch: Jeff Green
If there's one man who stepped up his effort for Boston in the second half of the season, it was Green. He only averaged 12.8 points per game on the season, shooting 47 percent from the field and 38.5 percent from long range, but he was even better over the last three months of the season.
Over that stretch, Green averaged 16.6 points and five rebounds per contest while shooting 50 percent from the field, including a 43-point performance against the defending champion Miami Heat on March 18.
From incredible dunking to a fiery nature that could give Boston tons of momentum, Green's performance in Game 1 could definitely set the tone for how the Celtics perform in the series.
Knicks Player to Watch: Iman Shumpert
Tasked with guarding the 6'9", 235 pound Green will likely be the 6'5", 220 pound Shumpert, the second-year guard whose playoffs were cut short in 2012 thanks to a torn ACL suffered in Game 1 against eventual champion Miami. The man is now back at full strength, playing excellent defense while also being something of a force on the offensive side.
Shumpert only averaged 6.8 points and a steal per game in his sophomore season, shooting 40 percent from both the field and three-point range, but his potential in the scoring department is there. On top of being a phenomenal pest that will surely drive the Celtics players to frustration, he can also drive the lane incredibly well and also be deadly with a corner three.
New York has a shot at winning if Shumpert's defense, be it on Green or anyone else, is top notch. But the pendulum swings further in its favor if he can also be a factor on offense.
X-Factor: Steve Novak
A three-point threat off the bench, Novak only posted 6.6 points over 20.3 minutes per game this year. However, he shot 42.5 percent from long range and proved all season long just how important he is in the Knicks' scoring attack.
Dating back to last season, the Knicks are 30-10 in games that Novak scores in double figures. Since joining the Knicks, he has posted 11.1 points per game when playing against Boston.
So long as he is in top form and taking advantage of open three-point opportunities as well as creating off the dribble, then New York has a chance at winning the game.
If his shots aren't falling, then the starters had better be at their best.
This game is going to have a lot of adrenaline pouring in from both sides, but the choice as to who will win is obvious.
Thanks to home court advantage, a strong attack on both ends of the court and simply wanting the win more, the Knicks will take the series opener fairly easily. Anthony will lead the way in scoring, and Chandler will play as though he was not at all dogged by injuries over the regular season's final weeks.
Throw in solid performances from Shumpert, Novak and also sixth man J.R. Smith, and New York has this one in the bag while Boston can only watch stunned.
New York Knicks 101, Boston Celtics 91