As the 2013 NBA Playoffs continue for the New York Knicks Monday night, they have the opportunity to take care of their home-court and take a commanding 2-0 series lead over the Boston Celtics.
For that to happen a lot of things have to go right and several Knicks players will have to step up at both ends of the floor.
But perhaps no player will be called upon to come through more than Raymond Felton.
Offensively the Knicks would like something similar to what Felton gave them in Game 1, scoring 13 points, dishing out six assists and grabbing four rebounds to go along with two steals and a block. Even though Felton didn’t shoot the ball particularly well, if he can give the Knicks a line like that every game the remainder of the postseason, I’m sure Mike Woodson and company will be happy with him at the offensive end of the floor.
But for the Knicks to make this a quick series, Felton must answer the challenge defensively.
With Pablo Prigioni expected to return to the lineup for Game 2, Iman Shumpert will draw the primary assignment on Jeff Green, which leaves Felton on Paul Pierce. Felton keeping Pierce in check now becomes a big part of this series.
Pierce, the Celtics’ top offensive threat, could have his way against Felton. The North Carolina product is six inches shorter and 30 pounds lighter than the 10-time All-Star. Pierce led the Celtics in scoring at 18.6 points per game during the regular season and had 21 points on 6-for-15 shooting in Game 1 when he was guarded most of the game by Shumpert.
But Felton started guarding Pierce late in the game and did a commendable job limiting the looks that Pierce got.
Guarding Pierce is nothing new for Felton as he drew the assignment on the future Hall of Famer in the Knicks final two regular season games against Boston.
Felton struggled mightily all season staying with point guards around the league as he just doesn’t have the speed to stay with most quick guards. But the matchup against most 2-guards and even some smaller 3′s is more fitting for Felton, especially if Prigioni is on the floor handling the opposition’s point guard.
Defense is likely to win his series and Felton has a tough task ahead of him.
He will likely need help at times, but has to find a way to slow Pierce down without needing too much help. If the Knicks have to constantly double team Pierce, it is going to leave open shooters on the perimeter and that’s something the Knicks don’t necessarily want either.
Shumpert is going to have his hands full checking Green, but given his reputation as a perimeter defender I’m fairly confident that he can at the minimum keep Green from going off in this series.
That then puts the pressure on Felton to do the same to Pierce.
If he is successful, this could turn into a quick series.
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