Here's the worst kept secret in the NBA. The Knicks are all about Carmelo Anthony. He's the large majority of their offense - especially lately. He's an amazing offensive talent, so he's the biggest challenge that the Celtics will face.
Garnett is well aware of who will be playing. Anthony is averaging 28.7 points (more than 10 beyond his nearest teammate) and 22.2 shots per game. "You know Melo’s going to get a majority of the shots," Garnett said before the C’s noon practice yesterday. "He’s going to obviously lead their team and will their team. Other guys are going to follow suit."
Thankfully the Celtics defense happens to be pretty good at taking away or limiting a team's first and second options and forcing role players and X-factors to make plays and shots. So who's job is it to slow down Melo? Call it defense by committee.
Others who should be ready: Jeff Green, Paul Pierce and Brandon Bass. According to Rivers, all should see time defending Carmelo Anthony in the first round. "And it’s not just (to keep them) fresh; it’s fouls. Carmelo, one of his best attributes for them is he’s a foul magnet. He’s terrific at drawing fouls, at getting people in foul trouble," he said. "So we want to try to spread those fouls between three guys instead of one guy locked in to get in foul trouble. Because if you guard him alone, you’re going to get in foul trouble. And we want to avoid that as much as possible."
In theory, all those guys actually match up well with Melo. He's a big 3 so he often creates mismatches for the slighter small forwards in the league. But Pierce and Green are both big 3's and Bass is a pretty quick 4 who was called upon (in a pinch) to guard LeBron James at times last year.
And it will be more than just who is matching up with him. Help assignments and switches will have to be crisp and precise. Defenders will have to communicate effectively and maintain focus. You know, Celtic defense. Or rather, Celtic playoff defense.
The Knicks are better than they have been and the Celtics are not as consistent as they should be, but if the Celtics can slow down Melo, then they'll have a much easier time advancing to the 2nd round.