New York Knicks fans may be excited to see how their favorite team’s strong interior defense fares against that of the rival Boston Celtics in the first round of the NBA playoffs, but the battle of size won’t be what decides the series. Nothing against guys like Tyson Chandler and Kevin Garnett, but they are nowhere close to being the x-factors at this point.
Don’t get me wrong. That isn’t to say that Chandler and Garnett won’t play prominent roles in how far their respective teams go in the postseason. At 7’1″, 240 pounds, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year in Chandler has excellent size to make any battle in the paint a tough one, and averaged 10.4 points and 10.7 rebounds while shooting 64 percent from the field despite missing a great number of games towards the end of the season due to a nagging neck injury.
The same can be said for the 6’11″, 253 pound Garnett, who posted 14.8 points and 7.8 boards per contest despite being on the wrong side of age 36. Regardless of that, he remains one of the league’s top defensive players.
But the battle between these two centers isn’t what’s going to matter the most in this series. Rather, it’s going to be which team can score more effectively. On paper, that team would be New York.
Look at it this way. Though Boston ranked 12th in points allowed for the regular season, allowing just 96.7 per game, they were 18th in points scored at 96.5. Just the same, they ranked sixth in the league with a collective field goal percentage of 46.5 percent.
But let’s talk about Boston’s defense just a bit more. Yes, the on-ball D is decent, but head coach Doc Rivers‘ philosophy is primarily about having a strong defensive presence in the paint (ironic, considering how the Celtics were 29th in rebounding), which leaves plenty of opportunity for opposing shooters to have a field day.
In case you haven’t heard, the Knicks are a strong three-point shooting team thanks to having two great players in that department in J.R. Smith and Steve Novak, with the league’s leading scorer in Carmelo Anthony pulling his weight in that area as well.
In fact, New York ranked fourth in the league with a three-point percentage of 38 percent. If Boston remains committed to stopping the team in the paint and trying to contain Chandler and other bigs, then the Knicks’ offense that ranked 11th in points scored at 100 per game could have a field day.
Considering how Boston is not as strong an offensive squad and New York ranked seventh in points allowed, one can see how defense could easily take a back seat in terms of deciding the game.
That all being said, though both Rivers and Knicks head coach Mike Woodson are both defensive coaches, this series is really going to be all about which team can score the most points and most effectively. If fans want to watch what’s going to be a battle for the ages, they need look no further than this rivalry matchup that kicks off today at 3 p.m.