Knicks vs. Celtics: Matchups That Will Decide the Eastern Conference Battle

Jeffrey SakakibaraContributor IIJanuary 24, 2013

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 07:  Kevin Garnett #5 of the Boston Celtics blocks a shot by Carmelo Anthony #7 of the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on January 7, 2013 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  The Celtics defeated the Knicks 102-96.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

With the recent feud between Kevin Garnett and Carmelo Anthony; tonight's matchup is going to be more than a game of basketball. The Celtics pulled away last time with a clutch performance by Paul Pierce, but somehow that game focused more on the confrontation after the game than what actually happened on court.

While both teams look to assert their place in the Eastern Conference, hopefully this game will be more about the buckets. 

Kevin Garnett (C) vs Carmelo Anthony (PF)

In the early stages of the game, Garnett will be assigned to Tyson Chandler and that'll be a battle of space in the paint. Garnett did a poor job boxing out Chandler in their previous matchup so it will be important for Garnett to keep his rebounding high and his foul count low. 

However, in the late stages of the game, Garnett will look to stop the biggest offensive weapon of the Knicks in Carmelo Anthony. Anthony had a lackluster performance last time, whether or not that can be attributed to whatever Garnett said to him.

There is no doubt that Garnett will look to provoke Anthony again, but the key here will be whether Anthony can block all of that out. If Anthony can rack up 40 points tonight like he has done this season, nothing Garnett says will even reach Anthony's ears. 

Rajon Rondo (PG) vs Jason Kidd (PG)

Rajon Rondo sat out the last time they played and it created an obvious difference in the way the Celtics played. Rondo is the one creating open shots and easy looks for baskets. The speed and intelligence of Rondo will be too much for Jason Kidd to handle, and he'll look to break down the defense tonight.

Jason Kidd on the other hand has become more of a spot-up shooter than a pure point-guard. If Kidd can build his offensive tempo going he'll force the Celtics defense to be a bit more reserved. 

Iman Shumpert (PG) vs Avery Bradley (PG)

With the return of Avery Bradley, the Celtics have a nice shooter and an explosive defensive player. Both Shumpert and Bradley have already established themselves as elite defensive players and you can expect both of them to battle near the paint.

Shumpert has the edge both in stats and playing time, but with Rondo back in the mix stats alone can't predict the kind of performance Bradley will bring tonight. 

What's most important in all of the matchups is that this will be an all-out war for court positioning. The game will lie on whether players can execute their strengths or whether they're held back by their opponent.