The Boston Celtics have been a perennial Eastern Conference Contenders ever since they formed “The Big 3” of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce. Point guard Rajon Rondo emerged over the last 3 years and became one of the best point guards in the league. In the offseason Allen defected to the Miami Heat and started a dramatic roster overhaul that included 9 new players. Jeff Green and Jason Terry were among those additions who were expected to play major minutes Midway through the season Rondo suffered a torn ACL and was ruled out for the season. The Celtics responded by running off an 8 game winning streak following the injury. Coach Doc Rivers has done a masterful job of maintaining stability while dealing with injuries and implementing new players into the system. Garnett remains one of the premier big men in the league and Pierce is one of the most clutch players in league history.
The Knicks have not been a contender since Patrick Ewing manned the middle of the paint. They spent years maneuvering to get under the salary cap and formed their own “big 3” of Carmello Anthony, Tyson Chandler, and Amare Stoudemire. Injuries, a coaching change, and general instability led to this group getting knocked out of the playoffs in the 1st round by the eventual champion Miami Heat. In the offseason they acquired numerous veteran players in an effort to win now as opposed to in the future. Jason Kidd, Marcus Camby, Rasheed Wallace, Kurt Thomas, and rookie point guard Pablo Prigioni were all over 35 years old. Age and bad luck contributed to a season filled with inconsistent lineups due to injury. Wallace and Thomas both suffered foot injuries and are not available for the playoffs. Camby and Stoudemire barely played and are question marks for the post season. Chandler and in season pickup Kenyon Martin are coming off injuries. Carmello Anthony and J.R Smith had career seasons and managed to keep the team afloat throughout the injuries. Jason Kidd provided his veteran savvy and leadership and Raymond Felton proved to be a steady influence at the point. Despite these injuries, Coach Mike Woodson led his team to 54 wins and the 2nd seed in the conference.
In Pierce and Anthony both teams have go to scorers who will likely be called upon in big moments. Chandler and Garnett are defensive minded big men who will look to control the paint and provide a presence in the middle. The biggest difference is in the bench where the Knicks hold a big advantage. Smith is the likely 6th man of the year, Steve Novak provides lights out three point shooting, Kidd is a playoff experienced veteran, and rookie Chris Copeland has emerged as a scorer. Terry had a disappointing season and the rest of the Celtics bench is not very deep and far from playoff experienced.
This series should be interesting as both teams don’t have a true identity. Neither excels in the half court but neither would be described as a fast break team either. In the end the Knicks are a much deeper team and have been playing their best ball of the season entering the playoffs. They will show why they are the 2 seed.
For more NBA Playoff betting odds: