Coming into the series, the general consensus on this series was that the 2 seeded Knicks will defeat the 7 seeded Celtics. However, these teams were thought to be more evenly matched than the usual 2-7 series. With veterans Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett as well as Jeff Green, the Celtics are a team that can matchup with anyone.
Before the playoffs, we predicted that the series would last 7 games as “their experience, grit, and physicality coupled with the tragedy unfolding in Boston will lead to the Celtics pushing this series to its absolute brink.”
However, this has not been the case. The Knicks have gone up on the series 3-1 and look for tonight’s game at 7 in Madison Square Garden to be the clincher. In the three wins, the Knicks kept the Celtics below 80 points per game and a scoring differential of 12 points per game. In the fourth game the Knicks were without J.R. Smith, and in this game the C’s won by seven.
In the earlier contests, Smith and Felton were the primary defenders against Paul Pierce. However, Smith faced Pierce more often, and was a better match up against Paul due to his height and weight (6’6, 220 lbs vs Felton’s 6’1, 205 lbs).
His absence made Felton defend Pierce more and also meant that Kidd and Pirigioni had the assignment of covering Pierce, which was a huge mismatch.
Also, when Smith was not guarding Pierce, he often lined up against Green. In Game 4, Green was covered by the bigger and slower Martin. Green was able to take advantage of this matchup on multiple occasions, which helps explain the Celtics offensive success against the Knicks in the last game.
In the fourth game the Knicks offense was highly inefficient, shooting an anemic 23.3% from the 3 and 34.4% from the floor.
The main culprits were Melo and Felton, who shot 10-35 and 10-21 respectively. With the absence of their spark-plug, the pressure was high for Melo and Felton to shoulder the weight of the offense. This caused poor shot taking, which is obvious upon looking at the stats.
Being at full strength, the Knicks will have a more balanced team offensively and better match-ups defensively. Expect tonight to mirror the first three games, as the Knicks move on to the second round.
This game is crucial as by ending the series now, the Knicks will have an extra three days rest, even if the other eastern conference series do not go to 7. This rest, as well as extra practice time, especially crucial if Stat is going to return, will be a huge aid in the Knicks pursuit of a deep playoff run.