Underdogs...that's the Boston Celtics. But you can never count out Boston---Never. This has been an eventful week for the city of Boston and in a way, the Celtics have become "America's team." Every casual or neutral fan is now rooting for the city of Boston. But can the C's get past the Knicks to let this underdog story grow? Or will the Knicks reign supreme?
For the second part in a CelticsBlog Playoff Preview, I asked our CelticsBlog Writers, "Who will win the series? If the Celtics win, how will they? And what is the key matchup?"
Comment below with your series predictions and your key matchup. Also be sure to vote in the poll!
Jeff Clark - Celtics in 6, Jeff Green Series MVP
The Celtics will win if Melo is held to under 25 points per game and J.R. Smith doesn't go bananas and they don't hit some unreal percentage of their three pointers. This team isn't going to be an offensive juggernaut so the defense will once again have to carry the weight.
The key matchup is Melo vs. Green: This boils down to their best offensive player vs. our X-factor and there are tons of questions to consider. Will Green get enough help? Will he wear down on defense and thus be less aggressive on offense? Plus there's the matchup itself. Green can post up smaller forwards and out-quick larger forwards but Melo is a bit of a tweener like he is. Melo's not exactly known for his defense though, so it should be interesting to see what kinds of looks they try to get for Jeff
Kevin O'Connor- Knicks in 5
I believe this Celtics team will go down fighting. I don't expect either team to get dominated in a single game this series, both teams have a lot of grit and fight in them. They are tenacious and have the ability to be a lock down defensive team if they want to be. While I pick the Knicks in five, it could very well go seven. This series will be tight all the way. I just don't think the Boston Celtics have enough left in the tank to take out this Knicks team. The Knicks ability to hit three-pointers as well as battle inside will make it difficult for Boston to stop.
The Celtics will win this series if they are able to stop the New York Knicks three-point barrage. The Knicks make the most three-pointers per game in the league, with 10.9. They also tie for the most attempts per game with 28.9. Players like Steve Novak, Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith will have to be contained in order for Boston to win this series.
A big part of that leads to me believe the key matchup of this series is Avery Bradley versus the Knicks point guards. Avery will have to have the series of his life for the Celtics to win this in less than seven games. It would be huge if he is able to disturb the person bringing the ball up the court. If Avery's able to knock the Knicks' offense off of their rhythm, then the Knicks ability to hit three-pointers in the half court could be stifled. Avery Bradley will someday be a Defensive Player of the Year but this is the series for him to really prove himself to the world.
Kiorrik- Celtics in 6
The Celtics will win if Avery manages 28+ minutes per game, and we manage to finish our open looks. The key matchup is Avery Bradley vs Raymond Felton & Jason Kidd: I think Avery is going to be key to us this year's playoffs. Maybe more-so if we ever end up battling Miami, but assuming he doesn't foul out in under 30 minutes, I want to stick with my ball-hogging, base-line cutting, corner-three shooting "point"-guard. Apologies for the quotes, but he's just not that much of a passer.
wjsy- Celtics in 6
The Celtics will win if the pitbulls are hungry. We're going to hear a lot about the Celtics having an advantage in experience with PP and KG going into their sixth post-season together, but it will be Avery Bradley and Courtney Lee that will be the difference. Their rotations on the perimeter in order to close out on shooters will be tantamount for winning this series.
It's no secret the Knicks shoot the three. Statistically, they're basically the same team in wins or losses when it comes down to free throws, rebounding, assists, etc., but they live and die behind the line. In wins, they make nearly 40% of their 30 three point attempts; in losses, they shoot 33% on 28 attempts. Doesn't seem like a lot, but that's an 8 point swing that I'm sure the Celtics would rather make up on the defensive end rather than on the offensive end.
We've heard this story before: the Celtics are facing a dynamic scorer surrounded by shooters. Thankfully, Doc has the blueprint to beat a team like this. Against LeBron James in 2008 and 2010, LeBron averaged 26.7 and 26.8 points respectively and the Celtics effectively allowed him to get his while locking down the rest of the Cavaliers.
That is not to say that minimizing Melo won't be a priority.
Carmelo is less of a table setter than LeBron and he'll look to score more than be a playmaker. Let's remember that this is his break out season in New York. After two first round exits, the Knicks are a #2 seed with Carmelo playing the best basketball of his career. Against the Celtics this season--outside of that first game at MSG in the infamous Honey Nut Cheerios incident where Carmelo shot a dismal 6-26--Anthony has dropped 28, 29, and 24 in the last three meetings. My best guess is that Pierce will draw the early assignment with the occasional Brandon Bass switch to give Melo a different look, but ultimately, the key matchup will be Carmelo Anthony vs. Jeff Green. If PP and BB can wear him down in the early rounds with body blows and physical defense, look for Green to finish him off with his length and speed in crunch time.
Jay Asser- Celtics in 7
The Celtics will win if their defense is on-point. More specifically, defensive rotations will be paramount in taking away open 3-pointers from the likes of Jason Kidd, Steve Novak and J.R. Smith. Once you take away the 3-pointer from New York - at least the open 3 because they won't stop shooting - you force the Knicks to retreat to isolation ball. When Carmelo Anthony and Smith begin to think they have to take on the entire defense alone and play 1-on-5, as good as those two are, you have the Knicks where you want them.
The key matchup is Avery Bradley vs. Raymond Felton: The Knicks are a different team when Felton is playing. He's underrated as a playmaker out of pick-and-roll situations. The key to neutralizing both Felton and Tyson Chandler as scoring threats is to play good defense against the pick-and-roll. Bradley needs to keep hounding the ballhandler up the court and fighting through the many screens that will be set on him. Offensively, Bradley can take advantage of Felton off the ball with his back-cutting. More importantly, Bradley needs to hit those corner 3's that will be open for him whenever any Celtic drives.
Evans Clinchy- Knicks in 6
New York's offense is just too explosive right now, and Boston's legs are too old. A Celtics playoff run would be an amazing story this spring, but I just don't see it happening unless a lot of things break perfectly for them. The Celtics will win if...well, my first answer was going to be "the Knicks shoot terribly from 3-point range," but they shot 8-for-28 exactly in two different Celtics games this season, and they won them both, so scratch that. Let's try a different, yet kinda similar, approach: The Celtics will win if they keep the Knicks' bench scorers from going off. The C's have beaten New York with Melo going absolutely nuts before -- just look at 2011. But they can't let the supporting guys make it rain too. That means no Jason Kidd, no Steve Novak, and oh dear God, please, no J.R. Smith. If those guys all have it going, the Celtics are in some real trouble.
The key matchup is Brandon Bass vs. Carmelo Anthony. Carmelo has transformed himself this season into the NBA's best power forward. He's got the strength and scoring ability to match up with absoutely anyone at the position, height be damned. Will Bass be asked to slow down Melo? Bass is a physically imposing dude in his own right, and while he's never been a great help defender, he may have the one-on-one skill to fight Melo to a draw. It won't be easy, but the Celtics might need Bass to have the best defensive series of his life.
Bent- Celtics in "3"
I don't really like to make predictions, but the last time I did on this site, I predicted the Celtics would beat the Lakers 7-0 in the 2008 NBA finals. Of course, that's the series that Bob Ryan famously called a six-game sweep, so my prediction was actually closer than anyone else's in the entire world. So, yeah...Boston in four. No, actually let's be even more ambitious than that: Boston in THREE. If you want a prediction of what is actually going to happen, the Knicks are going to shoot a lot of threes and a lot of them will go in, often at what will seem like the worst possible time. In related news, I will throw stuff and startle my cat about six times per game. Welcome to playoff basketball!
The key matchup has got to be Jeff Green versus Relativity and the ever-contracting dimensions of the NBA hardwood. It's been said that LeBron James shrinks the floor with his athleticism and length and that's definitely something Green has started to do; gradually as he re-gained his confidence over the first few months of the season and then increasingly since that stupendous performance against the Heat in March. The way he sizes up a defender, then backs up before attacking the basket is some synchronized hand-clapping away from being akin to an Olympic long jumper's run-up. Typically, the defender looks paralyzed, like a deer in the headlights. The Knicks have some good defensive players, but do they have anyone who can stop that? Maybe, but bear in mind that taking your best defender off of Paul Pierce would typically open up the door for his contrastingly more-methodical style. With no Rondo, the Celtics are going to have to flip a different switch this year. Could it be Green's time?
Fafnir- Celtics in 6
The Celtics will win if they can contain the Knicks offense and make the games a grind out contests. The key matchup is KG versus Tyson Chandler. KG needs to pull Tyson out of the paint to open up things for the Celtics offense and he also needs to contain Tyson on the glass to prevent the Knicks from getting easy 3 point shots of of offensive rebounds. Chandler needs to punish Garnett when he goes to help off of him by rolling hard to the rim and finishing strong. On defense Chandler's goal will be to keep the C's out of the paint and prevent easy buckets. Both players have also been injured and out of the lineup for long periods late in the season, who is healthier?
Josh Zavadil- Knicks in 6
Injuries, age and inevitability. It just makes too much sense to me. Then again, that's when Boston has been known for proving people wrong the most. Of course, that's when Rajon Rondo was healthy. I just don't think the Celtics win this series. They'll give the Knicks some pressure, they'll make things interesting, but I just don't see a Boston team in the playoffs without Rajon Rondo succeeding in the playoffs. I know they played well for stretches after Rondo went down, but this is a different animal. An entire series against a team worthy of being where they are seeded. The Celtics will assuredly muck the game up. Some of the games won't be pretty to watch. Twitter will complain about how confusing the Celtics are and Matt Moore's mentions will be in shambles. I'll probably search them out and retweet some of them just so show how irrational some people can be. Alas, the playoffs are here.
I love the Celtics, I love this team, I love watching Jordan Crawford awkwardly move in every direction, I love watching Shavlik Randolph fight with the intensity of a 16-year-old who thinks he might get cut from the varsity basketball team if he doesn't impress the coaches, I love watching Avery Bradley terrorize opponents. But the Celtics just can't do it this year. They won't win the title. I don't think they'll win this series. I really should have just started this off by telling you that I'm a pessimist, I guess.
The key matchup is Paul Pierce and Quentin Richardson. Why? Because if the Celtics are going to lose I want to have at least one or two moments that will be on YouTube for my enjoyment until I die.
FLCeltsFan- Celtics in 6
The Celtics will win if...they truly are healthy and they play tough in your face Celtics defense. No defense - no title.
The Key Matchup is Jeff Green (Paul Pierce/Brandon Bass) vs Carmelo Anthony I've read that Doc is going to use Green, Bass and Pierce on Anthony at different times. I think containing him and keeping him off his game will be key in this one.
Vote on the poll and comment below on who you feel will win this series!