Playoff Preview: 16 Teams, 32 Players, Unlimited Questions...
We arrive at the home-town team, and here is my best attempt at being objective: the Celtics match-up as well with the Knicks as any team not named Miami in the Eastern Conference. Boston’s lack of rebounding hurts them less against New York. Boston’s lack of play-making ability is less of a weakness against the team-defense minded Knicks, than the more athletic Pacers or Heat. Paul Pierce likes playing Carmelo Anthony and enjoys winning in Madison Square Garden. Boston’s ability to blanket J.R. Smith with Avery Bradley is a huge plus. However, it will take more than Bradley minimizing Smith for the Celtics to beat the Knicks four out of seven times.
Avery Bradley’s jumper and Jeff Green’s combination of corner 3 and slashing ability will be key in providing enough scoring to keep New York’s defense honest if Boston is going to upset New York in Round One. Green’s rising confidence and greater role during KG’s absence have been positive indicators for Boston’s future, but Bradley’s shooting has been a bigger problem since March 1. In 16 March games, Bradley connected on only 36.4% of his shots. During a five-game losing streak to some of the better defensive teams in the league, Bradley seemed to lose all confidence. Rivers alluded to that confidence recently, hoping it would return after an 8 of 14 night in Minnesota. Unfortunately, Bradley went 3 of 12 in the Celtics’ loss to Cleveland on April 3, the caveat being that Bradley put up those shots without Pierce or Garnett’s passing ability to set him up.
Speaking of Pierce, while Paul’s assist rate has skyrocketed in Rondo’s absence, his turnover rate has gone with it. If the Celtics advance, it will be in part because of Pierce’s ability to run the offense efficiently, which goes hand-in-hand with offensive balance that Green, Bradley and Jason Terry must provide. By the way, Jeff Green’s defense is occasionally awesome. I think it goes without saying that Kevin Garnett has to dominate defensively with a healthy foot, ankle, knee, thigh, hip, and whatever other ailments he has been dealing with, in order for any of the above to make a difference. But I said it anyway.
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Thanks for reading and Go Celtics,