Quantcast 2011 NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs: Round One - New York vs Boston

 

2011 NBA Playoff Preview – Eastern Conference First Round

(6) New York Knicks vs. (3) Boston Celtics

 

 

The defending Eastern Conference champions are not going to have a very easy time of it in the 2011 NBA Playoffs… and that includes the first round. After the final twists and turns of a choppy regular season ran their course, the Boston Celtics just might have to fight for their lives BEFORE facing the Miami Heat in a second-round showdown that is no longer a stone-cold, lead-pipe-cinch lock.

Consider the ways in which the New York Knicks could make life hell for Boston in round one. First, Amare Stoudemire has reclaimed a measure of health and – with a multi-day break in hand – will be appreciably fresh for this series. The Knicks haven’t had Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony on the floor at the same time over the past week… not since Stoudemire injured himself and missed the last four games of the regular season. New York will be geared up to play its best and most energetic basketball of the year in this best-of-seven series.

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This series will be competitive, though, not just because of what New York has, but because of what Boston lacks. The Celtics had a winning and proven formula over the past three years. They won two Eastern Conference championships and took home the whole enchilada in 2008 by overpowering the opposition. The one year in which the Celtics failed to win the East, 2009, was the year in which Kevin Garnett sat out the postseason with an injury. If Garnett had been at full strength, the Celtics likely would have been able to take down the Orlando Magic in the second round of that spring. As it was, the KG-less Celts were still able to go seven games against the Magic. When Garnett rejoined the fun last year and played alongside teammate Kendrick Perkins in the low post, Boston thumped Orlando in six games (leading the series 3-0 before coasting to the finish line) to reclaim the East title and let the NBA know that 2009 was an injury-based aberration. Boston owned a winning mix because it dominated the painted area.

Then Danny Ainge lost his mind.

 

 

Ainge, Boston’s general manager, got the funny idea in February to trade away Perkins to the Oklahoma City Thunder as part of a package deal that sent Nenad Krstic and Jeff Green to Beantown. The Celtics traded away their trusted interior bruiser and thereby lost the ability to impose their will on opponents within six feet of the rim. As Boston prepares to take on the up-tempo Knicks, who love to run the floor and shoot the three-ball under coach Mike D’Antoni, the Celtics can’t play with supreme physicality. The absence of Perkins has turned Boston into a more finesse-oriented ballclub. The Knicks, especially with Stoudemire in the low post, now match up a lot more favorably with Boston. It’s true that Boston point guard Rajon Rondo is probably going to be the best player on the floor in this series, but if Stoudemire and Anthony are the second- and third-best players, the equation suddenly becomes quite different. Kendrick Perkins would have guaranteed a mismatch near the tin, but now, New York can legitimately hope to play at a faster pace and force Boston coach Doc Rivers to make adjustments on the fly.

This really isn’t the lopsided series it figured to be at previous points in the 2011 NBA campaign. New York might not be favored to beat Boston, but it would definitely be a surprise if this series did not at least reach a Game 6.

 

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By: Matt Zemek
Pro Basketball Fans Staff Writer


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