By Kenneth Teape (@teapester725)
For the first round of the NBA Playoffs starting this weekend the New York Knicks will be taking on the Boston Celtics. Matchups will play a big part in this series as both teams have differing styles and dealing with injuries to main players. Here is a rundown of the matchups for the series and which team holds the edge.
Point Guard: Both teams are suffering from injuries at the point guard position, as the Knicks will be without pesky point guard Pablo Prigioni for game one and possibly more games in the series after spraining his ankle earlier in the week and the Celtics will be without All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo who tore his ACL earlier in the season. Raymond Felton is more than capable of handling point guard duties in the starting lineup on his own as the Celtics have Avery Bradley replacing Rondo. Bradley is one of the best defensive players in the NBA, but the efficiency of Prigioni once he returns and his own defensive prowess combined with Felton give the point guard edge to the Knicks.
Shooting Guard: Recently the Celtics have been playing a bigger lineup with Paul Pierce playing the shooting guard position. If Doc Rivers continued to do that this will be the biggest mismatch on both sides of the court in the series. Mike Woodson has a decision to make in either leaving Felton at the 2 when Prigioni returns or sliding Iman Shumpert over to his natural position. Regardless of who plays the 2 for the Knicks the Celtics will hold the edge here with Pierce manning the position. The Knicks would be smart to double-team Pierce as outside shooting is not a strength for the Celtics and force another player to step up and beat them. For now though, The Celtics hold the advantage at shooting guard as long as Pierce is playing there.
Small Forward: This is another position the Knicks will struggle to matchup with the Celtics on the defensive end if they stick to the small lineup that Mike Woodson prefers. Jeff Green will man the starting small forward spot for the Celtics and will take advantage of the size difference he will hold over expected Knicks starting small forward Shumpert. Green would most likely expose Shumpert in isolation opportunities as Shumpert is more effective as a ball-hawking defender on the perimeter not in the post. Shumpert will have to pick his spots well on offense as Green’s size will make it difficult for Shumpert to be effective , making the most of the opportunities that are presented to him as the Celtics defense will undoubtedly be focused on slowing down Carmelo Anthony. Currently situated, this is yet another position the Celtics hold the advantage in.
Power Forward: Carmelo Anthony will have a field day against Brandon Bass on offense. Bass is not used to guarding players from mid-range and deeper and that is where Anthony resides most of the game. Anthony will hold the quickness advantage over Bass and should have him on his heels all night. Another positive for the Knicks is that Anthony is strong enough to bang with Bass on the boards as well. Anthony will have to work for his points as Bass will receive a lot of help on defense, but if he is able to draw some early fouls on the Celtics power forward it will make things even easier for Anthony. The key for Anthony playing well on the defensive end will be his teammates helping out on the offensive end so he does not have to carry the load himself. This position will be the biggest advantage the Knicks have in the starting lineup.
Center: This will be a war of attrition as both starting centers have dealt with injuries recently. The key to the center position will be whoever is healthier and in turn more effective for their team. Tyson Chandler and Kevin Garnett are both the vocal leaders of their respective teams and it will be fun to watch them go at it in the paint on both ends of the court. Chandler will be challenged some by Garnett, who can move out to the perimeter and knock down jump shots. That will be a thing to watch in the series as the Knicks will need Chandler to rebound but he will not be able to do it chasing Garnett around the perimeter. Chandler should be able to make a killing on offense though as well, particularly with offensive rebounds. Garnett will have one eye on Anthony as long as he is on the court, giving Chandler a chance to attack the glass and score some easy put backs. Both centers are important parts to their respective teams, but the slight edge goes to the Knicks here.
Bench: This may be the most lopsided matchup in the series. J.R. Smith alone wins this matchup for the Knicks as he is potentially the sixth man of the year in the NBA and has been playing as well as any shooting guard in the NBA recently. Beyond Smith, the Knicks also have a great veteran presence in Jason Kidd very few teams can match on the bench as well as scoring machine Chris Copeland and sharpshooter Steve Novak. Kenyon Martin and Marcus Camby will bring some much needed toughness, defense and rebounding that is more emphasized in the playoffs. The Celtics just cannot matchup with that, as their guards are inconsistent in Jordan Crawford, Courtney Lee and Jason Terry. Terry also is not the same instant offensive sixth man he was when he was in Dallas. Chris Wilcox and Shavlik Randolph are nowhere near the level of Martin or Camby. The Edge here goes to the Knicks handily.
Some of the matchups are close and even in the Celtics favor, but this is the Knicks series to lose. This is the best group of teammates that Anthony has ever been surrounded by and wants to show people that he is capable of leading a team beyond the first round. Expect to see a ton of scoring from Anthony as he will lead the Knicks to a first round victory over the Celtics in six games as the loss of Rondo will be too much to overcome for the Celtics.