Atlantic Division Breakdown: Celtics vs Knicks

Feb 2, 2016; New York, NY, USA; Boston Celtics forward Jae Crowder (99) defends New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) during the second half of an NBA basketball game at Madison Square Garden. The Celtics defeated the Knicks 97-89. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 2, 2016; New York, NY, USA; Boston Celtics forward Jae Crowder (99) defends New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) during the second half of an NBA basketball game at Madison Square Garden. The Celtics defeated the Knicks 97-89. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports /

Breaking down key Atlantic Division matchup between the Boston Celtics and the New York Knicks

The Brad Stevens era of the Boston Celtics has never known a real rivalry against the New York Knicks, but that could finally change this season. Two of the biggest players in free agency, both the Celtics and the Knicks made the additions that could lead to a division title. Al Horford is the prized possession, but the potential if both Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose stay healthy is tremendous.

The Knicks have a long ways to go from last season, but they will certainly be a challenge in the Atlantic Division. Kristaps Porzingis will have a full season under his best and with significantly better talent around him he could improve on his great rookie campaign.

The way the Knicks play could also be much different than last season. Having Rose at the helm changes things, giving them a much more aggressive and dangerous point guard. It is impossible to trust that Rose will stay healthy, or even that he can come back at full speed. Rose has never consistently showed the athleticism that won him an MVP award, and he is no longer capable of being as great in the paint.

Rose would be the most prominent offensive player for the Knicks, but he would definitely not be the toughest matchup. The Celtics have Avery Bradley who has shut down much better guards, and Marcus Smart whose aggressiveness and size could completely eliminate what Rose can do in the paint.

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The Celtics can have the confidence in their defensive guards that they do not need to be too concerned with Rose. Porzingis, on the other hand, can attack the Celtics in a much more unique way, and they do not have the same kind of defense in the front court. Add Noah who can be one of the best passing bigs in the league, and Horford will have his hands full in the paint.

Horford is why the Celtics have a chance to be good enough on the interior, but Amir Johnson will also have to be at the top of his game. Porzingis adds such a dynamic threat and after the Celtics resorted to putting Smart on him last year, they need a more trusted approach. Horford and Johnson should be able to neutralize Noah in the paint, but Jae Crowder could also have an impact defending him on the exterior.

Crowder’s perimeter defense will be a lot stronger than Horford or Johnson’s and he is comfortable being an undersized defender. If Porzingis is doing too much damage there is no doubting that Crowder could be the solution. The bigger problem, however, is who would be defending Carmelo Anthony in that situation.

Anthony is still one of the premier scorers in the league, and Crowder will be his primary matchup for the majority of the time he is on the court. Crowder will be a last resort option on Porzingis, but they need their front court to defend him well so Crowder can stay on the best scoring option on the Knicks.

Atlantic Division
Mar 4, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (back) holds the ball as Boston Celtics forward Jae Crowder (99) defends during the first half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports /

As great as Crowder is on defense, Anthony is the one player that can really destroy a game against the Celtics. The Knicks can get their best offense from their front court, and that works against the best group of defensive guards in the NBA.

The Knicks have weapons that the Celtics could have difficulty containing, but they will still get an impact from their defense. The Celtics should have a distinct advantage over the guards and that is where they need to be generating steals. The Celtics will be in a great position to keep Rose and Brandon Jennings out of rhythm and that will make things a lot harder on the front court players.

The biggest problem the Celtics could run into is Noah. A potential defensive player of the year candidate can completely disrupt what the Celtics do in the paint. Horford gives them a player that can get an advantage on the inside, but everything will be more difficult for a team that can fluorish by aggressively driving to the rim. Noah will be the most important player in terms of forcing the Celtics to take jump shots, and that could easily be the difference for the Celtics.

Fortunately, Isaiah Thomas should have no problem getting the ball moving. The Knicks do not have anyone who can effectively matchup to Thomas, and he has to be the most important offensive player on the team. He may have more difficulty scoring on the inside, but he can make sure the Celtics stay in rhythm, and create a good opportunity.

The Celtics have always run their offense with their guards, and that is exactly how they want to attack the Knicks. They will need to do a great job with the ball movement because they need their jump shots to be open. It will be a lot more difficult to get any decent looks at the rim, but they should be able to create enough open looks on the outside. That also means that both Kelly Olynyk and Jonas Jerebko could be factors with their three point shot. Gerald Green could also see some time with the first unit if he gets hot shooting the ball.

Depending on jump shots has always been a dangerous plan for the Celtics, but they should be starting to fix that this season. They need to be able to hit shots on the outside if they want to reclaim that division crown.

The Celtics are certainly a favourite to finish better than the Knicks this year, but they could still be the most improved team in the league. Even if the Knicks are not able to keep up for the season, they will always be a tough matchup. These two teams meet four times this season, and that could have a huge impact on the division race.

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Health will be the number one thing for the Knicks, but the Celtics know that they need to be better than them, even at full strength. This is the most competitive these two teams have been since the Raptors went on this three year run as division champions. If anyone is taking the division title away from the Raptors this season, it will certainly be one of these two team.