Not many experts have faith in Boston.
The Boston Celtics have no chance of advancing past the first round of the postseason.
Or at least that’s what the majority of analysts would like you to believe.
Scouring the Internet, it’s nearly impossible to find one credible source who has the Celtics beating the New York Knicks in the opening round. Even then, it’s either in six or seven games.
Needless to say, the road ahead is a tough one for Boston.
With the seventh seed pretty much wrapped up, head coach Doc Rivers opted to rest several key players during the final weeks of the regular season. Fatigue and injuries also played a role in the decision.
In hindsight, it might not have been the best strategy for the Celtics.
While most teams pride themselves in trying to gain momentum heading into the playoffs, Boston took a completely different path. The team has lost 11 of its last 16 contests.
It only gets worse when you consider that the Knicks are currently one of the hottest teams in the NBA.
Sparked by a 13-game winning streak, New York comes into the series on the heels of a 16-2 run—the second-best record in the league during that stretch. Not to mention, both Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith have been on top of their games offensively.
With that said, picking the Celtics seems rather foolish unless you’re in possession of some kind of inside information. Either that, or you’re just a diehard homer.
But then again, the postseason usually brings about a change in confidence for Boston.
Like anger to Bruce Banner, the playoff atmosphere is key to the Celtics “Hulking out.”
Let’s take a look at some of those aforementioned predictions.
Prediction 1: Ignore the Season Series, the Playoffs Are a Fresh Slate (via Fox News)
Boston lost three of four to the Knicks during the regular season. That includes losses by 15 and 19 points during the teams’ last two meetings.
However, it should be noted that Kevin Garnett did not suit up for both of those contests.
His absence was surely felt by the Celtics, who were 19-5 against New York since acquiring Garnett in 2007. That included a first-round sweep during the 2011 playoffs.
In the two games with the 17-year veteran in the lineup, the margin of victory was six and three points, respectively.
But it’s not only Garnett’s presence that should offer Boston a boost in the series. The team has seemed to play significantly better in the postseason in years past.
One can look as recently as last year for an example.
After a rather disappointing regular season, the Celtics rallied to capture the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. They then went on an unheralded run to the conference finals, taking the eventual-champion Miami Heat to seven games. It was Boston’s third appearance in five years.
Since 2002, the Celtics have racked up 69 playoff wins. In that same time span, the Knicks have only one.
New York can keep its season series win—the team's first since 2003-04—Boston has the postseason history on its side.
Prediction 2: Jason Terry Is the X-Factor in the Series (via CBS Sports)
That looks more like a preseason expectation than a playoff prediction.
Terry has done little to nothing this season. Certainly nothing worthy of the $15 million contract he was given over the offseason.
In 79 appearances, Terry averaged 10.1 points, 2.5 assists and 2.1 rebounds over 26.9 minutes per game. He also shot 43.4 percent from the field and 37.2 percent from three-point range. It was easily his least productive season since his rookie campaign.
And this is the guy who’s supposed to change the series? Sorry, not buying it.
Jeff Green is a much better choice.
Through the Celtics’ first 43 games, Green averaged just 9.6 points, 3.2 rebounds and 0.6 blocks over 23.4 minutes per night. He also shot 42.7 percent from the floor and 32.9 percent from beyond the arc.
For the most part, Green looked lost out on the court. His play was full of hesitation, and he didn’t make the most out of the little time he had on the floor.
That all changed after Rajon Rondo went down with a season-ending injury.
In the 38 contests since, Green has averaged 16.4 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.2 blocks over 32.8 minutes per game. He’s also shooting 49.7 percent from the field and 43 percent from three-point distance.
Now, Green is attacking the hoop with more confidence. He’s also found a hot hand from outside, making him tough to guard.
While it would be nice to get Terry to start contributing off the bench again, Boston doesn’t need it. On the other hand, Green’s production can be the difference between one-and-done or a lengthy postseason run.
Which will it be?
Prediction 3: Knicks Will Win in 6 (via ESPN)
As much heart and dedication that the Celtics bring to the court every night, there’s just far too many reasons to believe that they’ll fall short this time around.
For starters, injuries have really made life difficult for the team.
Besides Rondo, Boston also lost rookie Jared Sullinger for the reason. Paired with nagging injuries to both Garnett and Paul Pierce, the team certainly has some issues. Not to mention, the duo of Garnett and Pierce are 36 and 35, respectively.
At what point does the burden become too much for them to carry any longer?
Then there’s the scorching play of Anthony, who was crowned with the league’s scoring title. He averaged 28.7 points per game.
However, it seems he’s saved his best for last.
Over eight games in April, Anthony averaged 36.9 points, 9.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists over 36.4 minutes per game. He also shot 53.8 percent from the floor and 46.7 percent from downtown.
Anthony is playing at the peak of his career right now. Add to that, he’ll be pretty well rested after sitting out the Knicks’ final two games of the regular season.
Thinning depth and a red-hot Melo might prove to be just too much for the Celtics to handle.
But hey, Boston has done crazier things in the playoffs.
All stats used in this article are courtesy of NBA.com's Media Central (subscription required).