NBA Playoffs 2011: 10 Great Reasons To Watch the Celtics-Knicks Series
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The Boston Celtics will face off against their Atlantic Division rivals the New York Knicks.
This series has much more to offer the casual fan that one would expect given the Celtics' 3—0 sweep of the Knicks in their regular season confrontations.
Here are 10 great reasons for all NBA fans to check out the Celtics—Knicks series.
10. A Rested Celtics Team
With the Boston Celtics crushing loss to the Miami Heat, their chances of retaking the Eastern Conference's second seed were heavily diminished.
So diminished in fact that Celtics Coach Doc Rivers decided to pull the pin on the regular season altogether.
Despite still having a slight statistical chance of edging back into second place, Rivers decided to rest his entire starting lineup — Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Shaquille O'Neal and Ray Allen.
In their place a bunch of reserves, free agent signings and D-League call ups.
While this is bad news for anyone who bought tickets to the last few Celtics games of the regular season, it is good news for those with playoff tickets.
The Celtics are expected to enter the playoffs fitter, healthier and better rested than they have been since the preseason.
And this means fans can expect much better performances from the Celtics 'Big Four' than the feeble effort on display against the Heat last week.
9. Spike Lee Versus Mark Wahlberg
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Many teams have celebrity fans. The Los Angeles Lakers in particular are the team to watch if you want to spot stars sitting court side.
However, the Celtics and Knicks are two teams that can rightfully argue that their celebrity fans are the most loyal and engaged.
In the upcoming series the Knicks and Celtics will have two very special fans in their corner.
The Knicks, as always, can expect the presence of the ever—kooky Spike Lee, film director and wearer of bright orange furry hats.
The working class Celtics meanwhile can boast film star and former underwear model Mark Wahlberg as their top celebrity fan.
Both men have a fun little rivalry going (see pictured), which should add a nice side order of humour to the series.
8. Both Teams Have Something to Prove
So much has already been said about the Knicks and Celtics trades that little remains to be discussed.
Both teams engineered major trades around the trade deadline, the Knicks gaining a perennial all star in exchange for half their roster and the Celtics sending away their injury—prone starting center for the under performing Jeff Green.
Both teams subsequently saw their form dip, whilst simultaneously seeing their trade partner's stock rising.
This has prompted fans of both teams to call for the head of team management.
For both teams, this series will be an opportunity to demonstrate that the roster moves they made were the right ones.
A lot of careers rest on the outcome of this series, adding an extra element of urgency for both teams.
7. Ray Allen
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Although he has been in a bit of a slump of late, Boston Celtics' shooting guard Ray Allen remains one of the league's all time best pure shooters. Indeed, some have even argued that Allen is having the best season of his career.
This season Allen has shown great delight in letting fire against the New York Knicks, including a game in December where he hit four threes on the way to 26 points.
With the Knicks possessing no strong defender to match up against the Celtics' sharp shooter, those who watch this series will be able to enjoy watching Ray Ray build on his 'all time three point shots made' lead over Reggie Miller.
6. Billups Versus Rondo
Rajon Rondo and Chauncey Billups are both point guards who have led their teams to an NBA Championship.
The similarity ends there.
Billups is a offensive minded guard, known for his big shots in crunch time.
(17.9 ppg, 5.4 apg, 2.0 3pg)
Rondo is a pass first, second and third guard, known for his quick hands and inability to make jumpers from outside of the paint.
(10.1 ppg, 11.2 apg, 2.3 spg)
This first round series should provide an interesting contrast of the two styles, and give further ammunition for those who argue for one over the other.
5. The Return of Shaq
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Many were disappointed when Shaquille O'Neal's recent return to the Celtics lineup ended after just five minutes of action, with Shaq once more hobbling off the court.
The Future Hall of Famer is still a fan favourite, whether it be on the television screen, Twitter feed or -—less regularly these days— the hardwood.
It looks like the first round of the playoffs will be the first time that Doc Rivers will let Shaquille O'Neal back on the court for the Celtics.
If he can manage to keep himself healthy during the Playoffs, both the Celtics and NBA fans will benefit.
4. Offence Versus Defence
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The New York Knicks are the league's second biggest scorers, averaging 106.8 points per game.
Meanwhile, the Boston Celtics are the league's stingiest defenders, allowing opposing teams to score a mere 91 points per game.
What will happen when the irresistible force of the Knicks offence meets the immovable object of the Celtics defence?
So far this season the answer has been a Celtics victory.
However, NBA fans will enjoy testing that theory over a best of seven series.
3. Garnett Versus Amar'e
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The power forward position is shaping up to be a battle of age versus youth in this first round series.
Although Garnett's Celtics has had the edge over Amar'e in terms of team wins, it has been the younger player who has come up big in terms of individual performance.
The December game between the two teams in particular saw Amar'e score 39 points, in addition to an almost game winning three that left his hand just miliseconds too late.
When the two power forwards meet in the Playoffs, both will be looking to stamp their mark on the series - Garnett with his defense and intensity, Amar'e with his scoring and athleticism.
As one player's career rises and the other's career fades, this could be the last time these two giants compete with so much at stake.
2. Boston Versus New York
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As any follower of American sports knows, the rivalry between these two East Coast cities has been raging since the dawn of the modern sports era.
The two cities' close proximity and sporting heritage makes every competition take on an extra level of excitement.
In basketball terms, Knicks and Celtics fan are considered amongst the league's most loyal, devoted, outspoken and knowledgeable.
Also, the Boston Garden and Madison Square Garden are both venues where NBA stars love to play. The sense of history and electric atmosphere make the best players lift their game, and make the weakest crumble under the pressure.
Add these ingredients together and you have the perfect recipe for an epic NBA Playoff series.
1. Paul Pierce Versus Carmelo Anthony
Paul Pierce and Carmelo Anthony are two of the league's best pure scorers.
Although Paul Pierce is no longer able to maintain the same consistent scoring level as in previous years, when you need someone to put the ball in the hole he is still one of a handful of players who demand the ball. His offense is potent enough to trigger game-winning runs and deliver dagger-like shots to put games away.
Similarly, Carmelo Anthony is simply a scoring machine. The man has turned scoring into an art form, with a jump shot that is money in the bank. As detailed here, when taking a shot with under 10 seconds remaining and the game tied or trailing by a field goal Carmelo Anthony is shooting 66% for the season.
Although the only game so far between the two players in the post-trade era was a little underwhelming - with both players scoring only a little over twenty points each - fans can expect both players to lift their games for the playoffs.
And, if any of these games go down to the wire. It will be a thrilling contest between two of the league's best clutch performers.
NBA fans should strap themselves in for one of the most exciting first round series in recent memory.