Emerging Storylines to Watch in Boston Celtics-New York Knicks Playoff Series
On Friday, the series will move to Boston for two games, which gives the Celtics a chance to start a comeback. Meanwhile, the Knicks will look to wrap things up as soon as possible so they can rest and get healthy before the second round.
With players like Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, the C's can never be counted out, but their inability to score on the Knicks' defense is definitely worrisome.
The series certainly isn't over, and the next few days should see some more intense basketball from both sides. Here are the best developing storylines to watch as the series moves on.
Knicks Take Commanding 2-0 Lead
A first-round matchup with a strong defensive team like Boston was supposed to be a trap series for New York, but the first two games have proven they can handle playoff basketball.
This is a team the Knicks defeated 3-1 in the season series, so it shouldn't be too surprising that they've taken such a commanding lead. Without Rajon Rondo, the Celtics just haven't had the firepower to win at MSG.
Defense has been the name of the game for the Knicks, with Kenyon Martin bringing some much-needed intensity, and everyone on the court buying into Mike Woodson's system.
With veterans like Martin, Jason Kidd and Tyson Chandler, the Knicks have shown their playoff mettle, silencing those who didn't think they would be able to perform in the postseason.
Boston hasn't played too badly, and this is still going to be a competitive series, but looking at the way New York has been playing they have to be worried about the series getting away from them.
TD Garden is one of the toughest places to play in the NBA, and with added emotional support in the Boston Marathon aftermath, it's going to be pretty loud over the next two games.
The Celtics always up their game at home in the playoffs. With the crowd behind them, it's not out of the question for them to get right back in this series.
As there is almost every year, there's a lot of speculation that this could be the final run for Boston before moving away from the Paul Pierce era. With that in the back of their minds, the Celtics aren't going to give up easy.
New York has definitely looked good in these first two games, but they've yet to face the challenge of a road playoff game—something they haven't been able to win in 14 years.
Knicks' Defense Developing into Elite Force
In the regular season, the Knicks were one of the best offensive teams in the NBA. Their fantastic outside shooting led them to the NBA record for three-pointers made in a season, and they finished third in offensive efficiency.
There were questions about whether their style of offensive play would translate to the playoffs, but, frankly, it hasn't mattered.
New York hasn't been playing too well offensively. But their defense has finally stepped up, becoming the elite unit they wanted it to be in training camp.
In particular, their second-half defense has been stellar, as they held the Celtics to a franchise-low 25 in Game 1, before eclipsing that with 23 in Game 2.
Kenyon Martin has led the way with his intensity and aggressiveness, and the Knicks have dominated despite Tyson Chandler's injury trouble.
Everyone—including notorious bad defenders Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith—has bought into the defense, making it tough for the Celtics to score, especially in the absence of Rajon Rondo.
Tyson Chandler Still Not 100 Percent
Tyson Chandler has been the heart of the Knicks' defense the last two seasons, but he hasn't looked the same in the playoffs.
Considering the recent injury trouble he's had, Chandler can't be blamed for his play, and it's likely that it will pick up as he gets more playing time.
The Knicks' defense has been great without major contributions from Chandler, but it won't reach its potential until it has his 7'1" frame guarding the rim. He's the tallest player in the frontcourt by 4 inches, so having him out there for longer is going to make a big difference.
Chandler's play isn't something Knicks fans should worry about just yet. As long as he picks it up in time for the second round, his team should be fine.
If they make it to the second round, the Knicks will face either Roy Hibbert and the Indiana Pacers or Al Horford and the Atlanta Hawks. Either way, they'll need Chandler at his best to defend in the post.
Can Anyone Step Up for Celtics Offensively?
You have to credit the Knicks for what they've done defensively so far in this series, but the Celtics' offense has still been disappointing.
Kevin Garnett isn't hitting his mid-range jumpers consistently, Paul Pierce has struggled and Jason Terry has continued to be relatively nonexistent. Couple that with the inconsistent play of Jordan Crawford, and the Celtics are in trouble.
With Rajon Rondo out, the offense was always going to take a hit, but with Pierce and Jeff Green in the lineup, they should at least be able to get to the 80-point mark.
Pierce has been lining up at shooting guard, which gives him a major height advantage over Raymond Felton. He'll need to start exploiting that matchup effectively to open things up for Boston.
It's not an ideal situation—especially for someone who's not a natural floor general—but Avery Bradley is going to have to step up as well. Like most, this is a team that needs a playmaker to be successful, and that's what they've really been missing through the first two games.
Will Melo Continue to Put Up Big Numbers on Boston's D?
Carmelo Anthony dominated the NBA over the last month of the season, and he's taken that form into the playoffs.
He's averaging 35 points on 45 percent shooting against Boston, which has helped the Knicks despite some inconsistent offensive play as a team. That's good for a 31.0 PER, which is a ridiculous number, well above anything he's posted previously in the postseason.
The Celtics do a good job of shutting down the Knicks' shooters, but they haven't found an answer for Melo. If he continues to dominate, the offense is only going to open up more for the rest of the team.
Boston is a great defensive team, and Doc Rivers is a smart defensive coach, but Melo is not the kind of player who can be stopped easily. He's leading the way for the Knicks, and is probably going to keep it up as the series moves to Boston.
Melo is on a mission in the 2013 playoffs, looking to silence the critics and finally win that elusive NBA title. First thing's first, though, and he's clearly motivated to get out of the first round for only the second time in his 10-year career.