Their lackluster play over the past month cannot continue if they want to celebrate their second championship in four years.
Rajon Rondo is the light who ignites the offense and he has not been performing with consistency during this recent stretch. Rondo has averaged 10.3 points and nine assists over the past 15 games, in which the Celtics have gone 7-8.
Ray Allen (9.1 shot attempts through the past 11 contests) has failed to get many opportunities to shoot. They are hoping for a 39-year old center who has only played five minutes since February 1.
Boston has been playing with a lack of passion and focus since mid-March. This was most evident in the games in Chicago and Miami. The Celtics committed 11 and 14 turnovers respectively. These turnovers allowed the Bulls and Heat to get easy transition baskets.
The Knicks have Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups and Amare Stoudemire, but they do not have a strong bench and they do not play well defensively. They allow 105.7 points per game, which is 28th in the league.
In the trade for Anthony and Billups, the Knicks sent Raymond Felton, Wilson Chandler, Danilo Galinari, Timofey Mozgov and a 2014 first-round draft pick to the Denver Nuggets for Anthony, Billups, Shelden Williams, Anthony Carter and Renaldo Balkman.
Since this deal was completed at the trade deadline, the Knicks are 14-14 and 8-10 with Anthony, Stoudemire and Billups in the lineup. Anthony has struggled with head coach Mike D'Antoni's up-tempo system. Anthony thrives off isolation sets.
The best chance for the Knicks to win this series would be to shoot well from beyond the arc. They have been using Bill Walker at guard. Walker is shooting 38.7 percent from beyond the arc. Landry Fields is hitting treys at a 39.3 clip.
These two teams have a stark contrast in style of play, but the Knicks right now are not deep and they are not a very tough unit. In the last meeting between the Celtics and New York, Boston outscored the Knicks 59-35 (33-17 in the fourth quarter) in the second half.
The Celtics will face the Miami and they will overcome the Heat.
Miami is starting Mike Bibby, who is just a shooter. If Rondo performs to his capabilities, he has the advantage in this matchup. Miami’s outside scorers such as James Jones, Bibby, Eddie House, and Mario Chalmers need to shoot the ball with consistency or they will be in trouble. Joel Anthony needs to provide energy off the glass.
This is a lot of question marks and throughout the season, the Heat have struggled against more talented teams because their supporting cast is inadequate and this has led LeBron James and Dwyane Wade to play “hero” ball in close meetings.
The Celtics cannot afford to make silly passes and play one-on-one basketball against Miami. They need to move the ball and get easy shots inside in order to make it to the Eastern Conference Finals.
This leaves the Celtics staring down at their little brothers, the Chicago Bulls.
These two teams are evenly matched. The Bulls is all Derrick Rose with a very good supporting cast. Carlos Boozer can pound the ball inside and score. Joakim Noah can defend the post. Keith Bogans needs to shut down Ray Allen like he did in their previous matchup when Allen only posted seven points on 3-11 shooting from the field. He needs to prove he is more than a shooter.
Rondo has to be able to cut off penetration from Rose. In the past two games between these teams, Rose has been getting to the basket with ease averaging 33 points. Boston has not won in Chicago this year.
This series will go seven games with the upstart Bulls celebrating the Eastern Conference title.
The Bulls will be meeting the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA Finals.
In one of the most explosive matchups in NBA history, the Bulls will defeat the Thunder because of their defensive intensity and home-court advantage in a very close series. Tom Thibodeau will prove why he was the NBA Coach of the Year.
Rose will be the first MVP since Tim Duncan in the 2002-’03 season to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy.