Now that the New York Knicks are set to have home court advantage in the first two rounds of the playoffs as the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, it’s time we take a look at what they have going for them in the first round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs.
The Knicks will play the Boston Celtics (a rematch of the 2011 Playoffs when the Celtics swept the Knicks). There’s no doubt that the team wants revenge for the sweep, and the hatred between these two teams dates back far into their history, but also as recently as the (in)famous “Honey Nut Cheerios incident” this season. It is bound to be an interesting series, but from a purely basketball standpoint, the Knicks have several advantages over the Celtics.
One of the biggest weaknesses of this Knicks team is rebounding; they rank 26th in the league. That’s why it is great news that the Celtics are ranked 29th. They lack depth up front, and while the Knicks are not the biggest team in the league either, they match up well against the Celtics due to their inferior size. This also helps out the Knicks offense, which is powered by the jump shot. When an opponent is a poor rebounding team, it can result in excellent second chance opportunities on the offensive end, especially when a team takes (and misses) a lot of jump shots.
That plays into the Knicks next biggest strength: offense. The Knicks are the 11th best scoring team in the league, averaging exactly 100 points per game. They are iso-heavy, and are 30th in the league in assists. With that said, the offense has been clicking with ‘Melo controlling the scoring and kicking the ball out to the excellent perimeter shooters when he is double teamed.
The Celtics only average 96.5 points per game, and their offense has struggled at times without Rajon Rondo (torn ACL). The Knicks defense ranks seventh in the league in points allowed, and they have proven that when locked in they can shut down an opposing team’s offense. The problem has come with perimeter players having unbelievable solo performances. Night after night, players like Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving, Nate Robinson, Russell Westbrook, etc have gone off on the Knicks defense. Luckily, no Celtic matches the type of player that has demolished the Knicks. Paul Pierce’s slow and steady game style is exactly what the Knicks want to see.
The two teams are also on two completely different trends. The Celtics finished the season losing 11 of their last 16. The Knicks, on the other hand, have won 14 of their last 16, many with Tyson Chandler sidelined due to injury. In the Celtics defense, they have been resting guys, and Kevin Garnett has not been completely healthy over that period. Many basketball minds argue that the regular season and the postseason are two separate entities, with little carry over. That mostly seems to hold true, but there is no denying that a run like the Knicks have been on has given them a boost of confidence that is surely going to effect their level of play going forward.
The Knicks are the two-seed, but that is only one of the many reasons stated above that suggest they should beat the Celtics in the first round. That would be the first playoff series won in over a decade for the for New York basketball. That my friends, would be quite the accomplishment, but the Knicks have their eyes set on something shinier…something the city has waited 40 years to see again.