On Saturday, the New York Knicks and Boston Celtics will begin their best-of-seven first-round series that is sure to be incredibly entertaining. The rivalry between the Knicks and Celtics is one of the best in the NBA, and with New York searching for its first playoff series win in over a decade, things should be very intense right from the tip on Saturday.
While the Knicks are the heavy favorites as the No. 2 overall seed in the Eastern Conference, these Boston Celtics are full of playoff experience and will be a very tough team to knock out regardless of their immense amount of injuries.
Here is a full breakdown of the first-round matchup between the New York Knicks and the Boston Celtics.
What You Need to Know
Seeds: Boston Celtics No. 7; New York Knicks No. 2
Records: Boston Celtics 41-40; New York Knicks 54-28
Season series: New York Knicks won 3-1
Playoff schedule: Game 1 Saturday, April 20, 3 p.m. ET (ABC); Game 2 Tuesday, April 23, 8 p.m. ET (TNT); Game 3 Friday, April 26, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN); Game 4 Sunday, April 28, 1 p.m. ET (ABC); Game 5 Wednesday, May 1, TBD; Game 6 Friday, May 3, TBD; Game 7 Sunday, May 5 TBD
Biggest Key for the Knicks: J.R. Smith
The biggest key for New York is the play of its sixth man, J.R. Smith. Smith has been incredible over the final months of the season for New York, and he is a major reason why the team won 16 of its final 18 games.
Smith has been giving the Knicks an average of 22 points off of the bench each game over the final two months of the season, and he has had seven games in the final two months in which he scored over 30 points.
Carmelo Anthony has certainly been the main reason why the Knicks have been on fire down the stretch of this 2012-13 season, but Smith is probably the second-biggest reason.
It will be incredibly difficult for the Celtics to slow down Anthony over the course of a seven-game series, so the key for them will be slowing down Smith's production. If they can keep him in check a few times in the series, they may be able to advance. If Smith produces at a high level, though, the Knicks will roll through the first round.
Biggest Key for the Celtics: Jeff Green
The Celtics' biggest strength coming into this series against New York is experience. Let's face it: This is not the first time guys like Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry have appeared in the playoffs. Each of them is an NBA champion, and that means they each know what it takes to win in the postseason.
With that being said, the Celtics will need more than just these three players to have a good series if they want to beat the Knicks.
The biggest key for Boston in this series will be the play of Jeff Green. Green had some monster games down the stretch for the Celtics, the biggest of which was a 43-point performance against the Heat on March 18.
They may not need 40-point performances from Green to beat the Knicks, but the Celtics are going to need a lot of quality minutes from Green throughout the course of the series. If they can get that, along with quality performances from their veteran players, the Celtics may be able to pull off the upset.
Key Matchup: Carmelo Anthony vs. Celtics Defense
The Boston Celtics are an incredibly good defensive basketball team, but they will get all they can handle from NBA scoring champion Anthony in the first round.
Anthony scored at least 20 points in all four games against the Celtics this season, but although he was very consistent with his scoring, the Celtics prevented him from having a monster game. Boston will be looking to duplicate that defense in the playoffs.
There is no doubt Anthony will get his shots off during a game. It will be almost impossible for the Celtics to keep him under the 20-point mark in the playoffs, but the big key will be keeping him under 30 points. Boston needs to force Anthony into tough shots late in the shot clock down the stretch of each game.
If the Celtics can keep him contained and force other players to beat them, they will have a chance in the series. If not, Anthony will put on a star-studded show in the first round.
Who do you think will win this series?
The Celtics will benefit from their veteran leadership and playoff experience, but New York is playing at too high of a level right now. Anthony and Smith have been outstanding offensively, and with a supporting cast that includes Raymond Felton and now what appears to be a healthy Tyson Chandler, the Knicks will simply be too tough for the Celtics to overcome.
Expect some close games in the series, but the Knicks should not have too much trouble overcoming Boston.
Knicks in Five Games