New York Knicks: Do They Want To Face Boston Celtics or Miami Heat in Playoffs?
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The Knicks and Celtics have a playoff history that dates back to the 1950s, but blood still stains the Madison Square Garden and American Airlines Arena floors from when the Knicks and Heat met for four playoff series from 1997-2000.
Actually, there's still blood on the MSG floor from the last time the Celtics and Knicks met, too.
If you're done celebrating the fact that the Knicks have won 40 regular-season games for the first time since the 2000-2001 season, which partially took place during the tail end of the Bill Clinton administration, take a look at a breakdown of each matchup and see which team the Knicks would rather face.
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First, let's take a look at where everyone is in the standings.
Eastern Conference Standings (Only Teams Relative to Knicks' First-Round Playoff Matchup)
1. Chicago Bulls, 58-20: @CLE, @ORL, @NYK, NJ
2. Boston Celtics, 54-24: WSH, @MIA, @WSH, NYK
3. Miami Heat, 54-24: CHA, BOS, @ATL, @TOR
6. New York Knicks, 40-38: @NJ, @IND, CHI, @BOS
7. Philadelphia 76ers, 40-39: TOR, ORL, DET
Boston clinched head-to-head tiebreaker over Miami (3-0 head-to-head record so far).
New York currently owns the second tiebreaker over Philadelphia by virtue of division record (9-5 vs. 8-7). New York and Philadelphia split their head-to-head series, the first tiebreaker.
Chicago has a 58-20 record and virtually clinched the East's No. 1 seed. The Bulls already have the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Heat and split the season series with Boston. The only way they won't get the No. 1 seed is if they lose out and Boston wins out.
By virtue of the second tiebreaker between teams in different conferences, intraconference record, Boston would get the No. 1 seed. John Hollinger of ESPN.com gives this a 3.2 percent chance of happening, so don't hold your breath.
I can't even begin to prognosticate the Knicks' playoff opponent. Anything can happen down the stretch.
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Let's scout the enemy's comments for a moment.
In Chris Forsberg's recent mailbag on ESPNBoston.com, he paraphrases Celtics coach Doc Rivers' comments about how you always want the best player on the floor in any playoff series.
In a league where one-on-one play is so commonplace, that couldn't be closer to the truth.
Ultimately, let's expand upon that comment. How many players on Boston and Miami should Knicks fans be scared of?
Miami (two): LeBron James, Dwyane Wade. No Chris Bosh. He somehow became so overrated that he is now underrated, but until he takes over a playoff game and wills his team to victory, he can't make this list.
LeBron is the best player in basketball, so the Knicks should be wary of him the most, but Pierce presents more of a threat than even Dwyane Wade, because of his killer instinct in the fourth quarter and overpowering success against the Knicks.
Pierce is starting to remind me of a certain ex-Indiana Pacer who shall not be named. Look at what he's done this year against the Knicks.
Celtics 105, Knicks 101: 25 points (9-of-20, 4-of-6 from three-point range) and 14 rebounds.
Celtics 118, Knicks 116: 32 points (10-of-18, 2-of-4 from three-point range, made all 10 free throws), 10 rebounds and four assists. He also made the game-winning shot over Amar'e Stoudemire with under one second remaining.
Celtics 96, Knicks 86: 21 points (8-of-13 shooting, 1-of-2 from three-point range, made all four free throws), six rebounds and two assists. Pierce scored 11 of his points in a four-plus minute stretch in the fourth quarter.
Pierce averaged 25.0 PPG last season against the Knicks, and 24.0 PPG the year before. He may have said that there is no Celtics-Knicks rivalry, but he sure plays like there is one.
Ultimately, I've seen four Celtics take games over, but only two Heats (Heatles? Thermodymanics? What's the plural form of Heat I can use to signify a collective of Heat players?). Edge goes to Boston.
A little off-topic, but you'd be ignorant to say they won't play a factor.
My father, who lives in Philadelphia, and I are in complete agreement on one thing: The two cities with the most maniacal, rabid, lunatic, criminally insane sports fanbases in the entire country are in Boston and Philadelphia.
New York is third, but too many New York sports fans are spoiled, serial front-runners (Oh, DeSean Jackson returned that punt for a TD? Go Jets!).
I digress. The Knicks have not won in Boston since 2006, and never during the "Three Amigos" era. In fact, the Knicks have gone 2-13 against Boston since the beginning of the 2007-08 season.
Boston fans hate New York teams, and will come out in full force and full venom against Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire and friends. It will get ugly. Maybe not as ugly as when a fan punched Gary Sheffield in the mouth during a Yankees-Red Sox game at Fenway Park in 2005, but it could get close.
Miami fans aren't nearly as mean, as evidenced by the Heat marketing department imploring fans to "fan up." Heat fans don't deserve all the flak they get, though. Their attendance numbers haven't been in the bottom half of the league since 2004.
Still, they are to basketball what Dodgers fans are to baseball: The weather's too nice to show up on time, but they'll show up at some point.
They'll be on time for the playoffs, but don't except the sheer hatred that will rain down from the stands at TD Garden (does this name change every year?), a proverbial house of horrors for the blue and orange.
The Battle Inside
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Here's a stat that will make Knicks fans throw up in their mouths.
The Knicks have been outscored in the paint and outrebounded in every single game this season against the Heat and Celtics. I'd write out all the numbers for you, but my eyes would start to bleed and I'd be unable to finish this article.
In order for the Knicks to win a playoff round against either of these teams, they have to hit outside shots. Toney Douglas need to stop his streakiness and be consistent from beyond the arc.
Carmelo Anthony's maestro performance against the 76ers—in which he completely disrespected Andre Iguodala and made shots over him down the stretch to almost single-handedly win Wednesday's game—needs to be duplicated against Paul Pierce or LeBron James.
Amar'e Stoudemire has to hit his 15- to 20-footers, and Landry Fields and Shawne Williams must make corner three-pointers.
This series won't be won on Amar'e Stoudemire pick and rolls, Ronny Turiaf putbacks or Landry Fields dunks.
Turiaf, the main head of the four-headed monster called Shawden Jeffriaf, must be healthy and be physical with Chris Bosh (not too hard) and Kevin Garnett (very hard since he is a sociopath on the court).
Ultimately though, even with Kendrick Perkins out of town, the Knicks can't stop the combination of Garnett, Glenn Davis, Shaquille O'Neal, Jermaine O'Neal and Nenad Krstic.
Melo would need to go all Bernard King and score 40 for the Knicks to stay alive. It's a lot easier to deal with Bosh and whoever the heck Miami throws out at center.
The Results: Boston
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Here's how the Knicks-Celtics games have gone this season.
Rondo casually goes for 10 points, 24 assists and 10 rebounds. He did have seven turnovers, though. What a bum. Pierce and Garnett combine for 49 in a game the C's led almost the entire way.
The Knicks were outrebounded 54-38 and outscored in the paint 54-38. Not a typo.
The first of two times the Knicks have blown double-digit leads to the Celtics at the Garden this year. This game was probably the second-best regular season contest in the entire NBA behind the Paul Millsap game in Miami. Paul Pierce hit a jumper with four-tenths of a second left to give Boston a 118-116 lead.
Mike D'Antoni then calls an idiotic play and had Stoudemire pop out to the top of the key for a wide-open three-pointer that went in. Too bad it was well after the buzzer and had no chance of ever beating the clock. How was Stoudemire going to catch the ball, turn 90 degrees and then shoot in four-tenths of a second?
Stoudemire was incredible with 39 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks. Garnett and Pierce combined for 52 points and 23 rebounds. Rondo showed mercy on the Knicks and dished only 14 assists.
The first Celtics-Knicks game post trade deadline. The Knicks blow an 82-73 lead with seven-plus minutes left, succumbing to a 23-4 run led by Paul Pierce's 11 points. They were outscored 33-17 in the fourth quarter overall.
The Knicks' dire need for post help showed, as they were outrebounded 48-38 and outscored in the paint 44-28. Garnett and Pierce (you guys again?) combine for 45 points and 17 rebounds. Garnett was a plus-22 on the night. The Knicks' Big Three combines for 59 points.
Ray Allen notoriously caught an elbow in the head from Jared Jeffries and needed seven stitches to close the wound. Troy Murphy also had a bloody nose and Glen Davis was elbowed by Anthony, who in turn got five stitches following a fourth-quarter collision with Rajon Rondo.
April 13, 2011: New York at Boston
To be decided.
Overall, we notice a pretty telling pattern here. Garnett and Pierce go off on the Knicks. The Celtics dominate the paint.
The Knicks are able to stay in the game thanks to outside shooting and Stoudemire's heroic efforts, but some stagnant offense and lax defense in the fourth quarter hinders the team. Not good.
The Results: Miami
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The Big Three combine for 84 points, nearly outscoring the Knicks by themselves. The game was tied at 57 before the Heat outscored the Knicks 33-17 in the third quarter. LeBron goes for 32 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. Stoudemire scored just 24 points on 28 shots.
Down by 22 in the first half, the Knicks climb all the way to within three points, 97-94, before Dwyane Wade strikes the dagger blow with a three-pointer. Wade scored 40, but Stoudemire outdueled Bosh, 30-18.
Wade missed all seven of his field goals in the last stanza as the Knicks outscored the Heat, 29-15, buoyed in the end of back-to-back three-pointers from Landry Fields and Danilo Gallinari. Those two and Stoudemire combined for 63 points.
Outside of the Spurs game at Madison Square Garden, this was the Knicks' best win of the season. We also learned that Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire can play excellent defense if they give maximum effort.
Up 87-86 with time running down, Anthony forced James to drive into a waiting Stoudemire, who swatted James' layup into Shawne Williams' waiting hands. Williams hit two free throws, James missed a three and Bill Walker iced the game with two more charity-stripe shots.
Other notable moments: The Knicks went on a 16-0 run to close the second half, giving themselves a 52-51 halftime lead.
Chauncey Billups also offered Knicks fans a glimpse of what life would be like with him healthy, as he scored five straight points to give the Knicks a 85-84 lead and then made a steal and a dish to Shawne Williams, who was fouled and made two freebies.
The Knicks aren't scared of the Heat or their building. There are no ghosts in Miami. Sure, the Heat have plenty of star power, but so do the Knicks.
The problem is that Miami has two All-Stars on the wing while the Knicks have one. Ultimately, the Knicks have an edge at point guard, so Billups and Douglas would need to play to their full potential. If they do, this series will be six or seven games.
The Positional Matchup and Check List: Boston
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Here are just some quick-hit comments about the matchups. We'll be going more in depth next week when the Knicks' opponent is official.
Starting Point Guard: Rajon Rondo vs. Chauncey Billups
Edge to the Celtics. On their best days, Rondo is better despite lacking an outside jumper, but Billups hasn't seen his best days since he ran into a Dwight Howard pick in March.
Starting Shooting Guard/Small Forward: Ray Allen and Paul Pierce vs. Landry Fields and Carmelo Anthony
Slight edge to the Celtics. Pierce has the Knicks' number, and Fields has been lost in the offense since the Anthony deal. Still, Anthony has been on fire lately.
Starting Frontcourt: Kevin Garnett and Shaquille O'Neal vs. Amar'e Stoudemire and Ronny Turiaf
Wash. Stoudemire will pour in his 25-30 a night against the Celtics, but Garnett's going to get his points too. No idea how much the Big Fella will be able to contribute. Same goes with Turiaf.
Bench Backcourt: Anthony Carter, Toney Douglas and Roger Mason vs. Carlos Arroyo and Delonte West
Not even close. Big Edge Knicks. Carter has been a pleasant surprise and runs the offense very well in short spurts, even if his shot is criminally ugly.
Douglas can score 30 on any given night. Mason has even had some decent performances. West offers good production for the minutes he plays, but Arroyo can't find the court.
Bench Forwards: Jeff Green and Sasha Pavlovic vs. Shawne Williams and Bill Walker
Edge Celtics. It wasn't that long ago when Jeff Green was the third-best player on a team that was one shot away from pushing the eventual NBA Champs to seven games.
Bench Frontcourt: Shelden Williams, Shawne Williams and Jared Jeffries vs. Jermaine O'Neal, Glen Davis and Nenad Krstic
Edge Celtics. Oh, brother.
The Positional Matchup and Check List: Miami
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Starting Point Guard: Mike Bibby vs. Chauncey Billups
Edge Knicks. Billups would be facing a point guard who is even less experienced with his new team than he is. If Billups is healthy, that's an even bigger edge.
Starting Shooting Guard/Small Forward: Dwyane Wade and LeBron James vs. Landry Fields and Carmelo Anthony
Edge Heat. There isn't any shooting guard-small forward combination in the history of basketball better than Wade and James. Thankfully, Anthony is great and Fields is a jack of all trades.
Starting Frontcourt: Chris Bosh and Erick Dampier vs. Amar'e Stoudemire and Ronny Turiaf
Slight Edge Knicks. Turiaf offers more defensive versatility than Dampier (although the latter player is a load at 6'11", 265) and Stoudemire is simply better than Bosh.
Bench Backcourt: Anthony Carter, Toney Douglas and Roger Mason vs. Mario Chalmers, Mike Miller and Eddie House
Edge Knicks. First of all, I don't have words to describe Mike Miller's ESPN photo. Actually, I do, but I can't say them on a PG-13 website.
Second, Douglas is the best of the bunch. Third, Miller has been beyond disappointing and is shooting just 40 percent from the field. Chalmers lost his starting job. Miami's backcourt is a wreck.
Bench Small Forwards: James Jones vs. Shawne Williams and Bill Walker
Edge Knicks. Shawne Williams has been a very pleasant surprise for the Knicks.
Bench Frontcourt: Joel Anthony, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Juwan Howard vs. Shelden Williams, Shawne Williams and Jared Jeffries
Edge Heat. How is this even possible?
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At this moment, I wouldn't think twice about picking the Celtics to win their series with the Knicks in five or six games. They have the better starting lineup, bench and coach. Homecourt advantage is pretty nice too.
The team is also motivated by the fact that the window is closing. Maybe the Celtics are bummed out by Kendrick Perkins being gone, and maybe they looked terrible last night against the Bulls, but the Knicks don't have the length down low that the Bulls do, which clearly bothered Boston last night.
As I said before, the Knicks would have to consistently be dead eyes from beyond the arc to win.
Therefore, Miami is the easy pick here. They may clog the paint too, but the point guard, frontcourt and bench matchups clearly favor the Knicks.
Truth be told, I'm not that much more confident in the Knicks against Miami either, simply based on the Knicks' recent performance.
After a six-game losing streak, New York beat Orlando (minus Jameer Nelson, J.J. Redick and Quentin Richardson), New Jersey (barely), Cleveland (finally), Toronto (an AAU team) and Philadelphia (tried to give it away).
Snide parenthetical remarks aside, the five-game winning streak isn't anything to go nuts over. The Knicks still depended largely on the iso-Melo offense to succeed, and he delivered.
But what happens when he faces James for at least four games, a much better defender than anyone he faced outside of Andre Iguodala recently? At some point, the offense will stagnate. It's what the Knicks do to readjust that will determine the Knicks' success.
Outscore the opponent or die is the Knicks' philosophy, no matter who they play.