It’s official, the Boston Celtics will be facing the New York Knicks in the first round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs for the second time in three years. The difference this time? The Knicks will have home court advantage, while the Celtics find themselves in unfamiliar territory playing on the road in their first two games of the postseason. Boston has their work cut out for them as they’ve lost decisively to New York in their last two meetings. Carmelo Anthony has stepped up his game at the right time and is leading his team into the playoffs on an emotionally high note.
There are two x-factors for the Celtics who could change the complexion of the series and possibly propel the veteran team past the very sound New York Knicks. Kevin Garnett and Jeff Green are the players that have the ability to take over games, cause matchup problems, and have the talent to overcome the odds that Boston currently faces. For Garnett, health is the only issue that could hinder him from having a major impact on defense and be the anchor that the Celtics need to stop the Knicks offense. Green has to be aggressive, but needs to play smart and not receive unnecessary fouls, especially when he’s driving into the paint. He causes headaches for opponents because of his length and capability to play multiple positions throughout a game. The Knicks will have the daunting challenge of balancing who defends Green, as Carmelo Anthony would likely be matched up with Paul Pierce.
However, the real deciding factors of this series will be Boston’s rebounding and limiting New York’s ability to rain down threes. The Celtics can’t afford to give the Knicks multiple second chance opportunities as that has been a problem for them in the previous meeting between both teams. When crashing the offensive boards, New York can kick the ball out to their three point shooters like J.R. Smith and Steve Novak. So to put it simply, no offensive rebounds leads to no wide open shots on the perimeter for the Knicks.
Celtics fans have downplayed this series for the past few weeks as this matchup was seen as very likely throughout the season. I tend to disagree that Boston has the ability to walk all over New York and steal a series away from a team who has home court advantage and has size that can’t be rivaled. At least in the Celtics case, they don’t have the size to match the Knicks height. If Boston does make it past New York it will be a long, hard fought battle that could very well go six to seven games before a victor can be decided. The Knicks aren’t afraid of anyone, and rightfully so. For the Celtics to advance they’ll have to display much more energy and effort on both ends of the floor, but what they can’t control will determine how far they go, which is health. If Kevin Garnett doesn’t have to miss any time, and Avery Bradley doesn’t have a reoccurring injury to his shoulders, Boston will have a better chance in this series.
What hasn’t been brought up yet is the fact that this could be Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett’s last postseason with the Celtics. Garnett is getting up there in age and has had to deal with health issues, while there are rumors that teams like the Los Angeles Clippers have interest and will try acquiring Pierce. With that being months off and not etched in stone, the present holds some significant challenges that need to be dealt with now. The Celtics face a tough opponent in the first round who is hungry to advance. This won’t be an easy task for Boston and will require contributions from everyone, including the last player on the bench. If the Celtics want to go far, they’ll have to rely upon each other and face this war together as brothers. This team has the experience and will have to use it to get by the Atlantic Division champions.