The first round of the 2013 NBA playoffs has been shaped by rivalries that are being rekindled under the bright lights of the postseason. No series has garnered as much attention as the clash between the New York Knicks and Boston Celtics.
With the Knicks taking a 1-0 series lead, however, we must ask the age old question—which players will decide Game 2?
Game 1 was a defensive slug fest, as the Knicks outlasted the Celtics by a score of 85-78. Despite leading 53-49 at the half, Boston collapsed during the fourth quarter, scoring just eight points and allowing New York to pull away.
With both teams shooting below 41.5 percent, however, it's clear that Boston was in it until the final buzzer.
In order to secure a victory in Game 2, the Celtics must be able to capitalize on the Knicks' mistakes. They must also limit their own mishaps, as Boston committed 20 turnovers and shot just 5-of-20 from beyond the arc.
In that same breath, the Knicks may own a 1-0 lead, but they've hardly separated themselves as the superior force.
New York shot 40.5 percent from the field during Game 1 and committed 23 personal fouls. The trio of Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith and Raymond Felton combined to shoot 25-of-61.
The rest of the team went 7-of-18.
So who must step up in Game 2 in order to secure a series-altering victory? Which positional battles will determine the outcome?
Let's find out.
Carmelo Anthony versus Jeff Green
During Game 1, the New York Knicks routinely exploited the Boston Celtics' defense by allowing Carmelo Anthony to attack Brandon Bass. Bass, a power forward, had no answer for 'Melo as the scoring champion took it to him both inside and out.
Once Jeff Green was switched onto Anthony, however, it was a different story.
After making five of his first seven shots, 'Melo proceeded to go 8-for-22 the rest of the way. Fortunately, 'Melo caught fire during the fourth quarter to make up for those second and third quarter woes.
It's worth nothing that Anthony's first and only assist came with less than a minute remaining in the game.
With that being said, we'd be remiss to ignore how efficiently dominant Green played offensively. As Anthony poured in 36 points on 13-of-29 shooting, Green took another route.
The former Big East Player of the Year finished with 26 points on 8-of-15 shooting—he did so with an additional seven rebounds, two assists and three blocks. Whether he was draining threes or working it inside, Green scored at virtual will.
The question is, who will win this battle in Game 2?
Kevin Garnett versus Tyson Chandler & Kenyon Martin
In Game 1, many expected to witness a battle of former Defensive Player of the Year award winners as Kevin Garnett clashed with Tyson Chandler. Chandler proceeded to play just 20 minutes, thus creating playing time for Kenyon Martin.
K-Mart responded with 10 points, nine rebounds, two blocks and a steal in 28 minutes.
With this in mind, it's clearly irrelevant which Knicks center is on the floor against KG. One way or another, Garnett will need to outmatch the Knicks' interior intensity, as both Chandler and Martin are known for their motor and physicality.
The question is, can KG channel 2008 and lead the Celtics to a crucial victory?
During Game 1, Garnett managed to grab nine rebounds, dish out four assists and swat one shot. Unfortunately, he was also 4-of-12 from the field.
Garnett will need to score at least 15 points for Boston to win this one—especially after the Celtics' reserve big men played a combine zero minutes in Game 1.
Courtney Lee versus J.R. Smith
The New York Knicks received a monstrous 15-point, five-rebound and two-steal performance from J.R. Smith in Game 1. Although Smith shot 1-of-7 from beyond the arc, the Celtics must be pleased with how effective he was on the floor.
It's on Celtics swingman Courtney Lee to prevent Smith from breaking out in Game 2.
Lee is especially sound in defending slashers, which bodes well for Boston against Smith's rim-attacking ways. The question for Lee, of course, will be whether or not he can prevent Smith from creating space along the perimeter.
If he can't, Smith could flirt with 30 points.
This will be the ultimate decider during Game 2, as we're almost certain to see both teams shoot better than 41.5 percent. While Lee can put up the three-ball, it's imperative that he limits Smith in doing so as well.
The Knicks may be a powerful defensive team, but they also led the league in three-point field goals. Can Lee slow them down in Game 2?
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