Since March 26, when the Knicks closed out a six-game losing streak in Charlotte, they rolled to a seven-game win streak before losing to the Bulls on April 12. It took some time for the team to gel, but as Carmelo predicted, the Knicks are ready to roll in the playoffs.
The Celtics, on the other hand, enter tonight's regular-season closer with a 5-5 record in the same time span. Since the Kendrick Perkins trade, the Celtics have gone 14-12 with lopsided losses to several playoff teams such as Miami, Chicago, Philadelphia and Memphis.
One team looks confident and one doesn't. Only one can advance—who will it be?
Melo is home on the big stage
The Celtics are limping into Game 1 of this series receiving inconsistent play from all of the "Big Four." In the final two weeks of the season, the Celts struggled and eventually lost their No. 2 seed to the Miami Heat.
Healthy big men may change this series, but with all the question marks surrounding Shaq, this matchup becomes a much bigger toss-up.
The Knicks, on the other hand, enter this series on a high note. Not only is Carmelo Anthony playing his best ball of the season, but all the role players have found their niche on the court.
The momentum behind the Knicks and inconsistent play from the Celtics win New York Game 1.
New York leads series, 1-0.
The Celtics emotional leader will need to regroup the team
After a disappointing Game 1 loss, the veteran Celtics team, backed by the Boston crowd, will rally to a win knowing that it's a must.
Kevin Garnett will resume his most important role with the Celtics and align everyone behind him and lead his team to a series-tying win.
Series tied, 1-1.
No crowd in the NBA compares to the one at Madison Square Garden.
The smartest fans in the NBA are known for picking up players and getting the most out of players who are underperforming—the crowd will put Carmelo Anthony on a stage that he has never seen before.
The Knicks' first home playoff game since 2004 will be a special one.
Melo thrives in the spotlight, and none is brighter than New York. He drops 40 in a Knicks win.
New York leads series, 2-1.
Role players will be key in game 4
Following an electric Game 3 in which Melo shows why the Knicks acquired him in February, the role players come out to play.
The Knicks are No. 1 in the league for three-pointers made per game. Role players such as Toney Douglas, Chauncey Billups, Shawne Williams and Landry Fields will provide a much-needed energy boost and a big night from behind the arc.
The Celtics are veteran team, but they are also old. Their size advantage will be overcome by the tempo played by the Knicks at home.
New York leads series, 3-1.
Shaq finally shows up
Coming home to Boston will be much needed for the Celtics. On the verge of elimination, the crowd will get behind the team and will them to victory.
Game 5 will be Shaquille O'Neal's last hurrah in the NBA. The Celtics will finally be able to exploit the Knicks' interior defense and Shaq, along with the Boston crowd, will bring the series closer to a Game 7.
New York leads series, 3-2.
Stunned. Shocked. Finished. These are just some of the words that may appear in the Boston Globe after Game 6 of the first round.
The word that will mater most to Knicks fans is "relevance." Once again, the Knicks are something to be proud of and they are a team to fear in the NBA.
Ultimately, for the Celtics, since the Perkins trade, they have not been the same team. The team not only misses his size and tenacity, but also the chemistry they had.
No longer can they say, "This group has never lost a playoff series when healthy," because that group is gone.
Since Perk was traded, the Celtics have looked older, less consistent and smaller. The Knicks are younger, faster and have the two best players on the court every night (Amar'e Stoudemire and Melo).
New York wins series, 4-2. Who's next?