As Sam Rosen once proclaimed, “The waiting is over!”. And while the New York Knicks haven’t reversed and jinxes or won a title, after seven years of misery, they’re back in the playoffs. The Knicks play their first playoff game since 2004’s sweep to the Nets when they face the Boston Celtics tonight in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference first round series. As is always the mantra for a road team in a series, the Knicks will be looking to win a game in Boston and return to what will be a rabid Madison Square Garden with the series even. Tonight’s game might be the Knicks’ best chance to do so.
Now the Knicks have to find the chemistry that they’ve lacked for a good portion of the time after they acquired Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups. Before the trade, it was Amare Stoudemire’s team. Now it’s Anthony’s. ‘Melo comes into the series as one of the hottest players in the NBA, and his shooting touch has looked perhaps the best it ever has in his career in the past ten games or so. Stoudemire will have his hands full on both ends, matching up with Kevin Garnett, who will get in Stoudemire’s face and make it difficult on every trip. Billups will need help from Toney Douglas in containing Rajon Rondo, and will have a tough time trying to break down the Celtics defense with Rondo guarding him. Anthony might just be the toughest player in the league to contain, so even with Paul Pierce guarding him, it will have to be Anthony to lead the Knicks.
It’s been well chronicled how the Celtics have struggled down the stretch since they traded Kendrick Perkins, and their usually robust front line is looking a lot thinner. Shaquille O’Neal will not play in Game 1, so the Celtics will turn to Jermaine O’Neal, Glen Davis, and Nenad Krstic to patrol the paint. But the real stars are still in tact, and there aren’t many other groups of teammates you’d rather have in the NBA than Garnett, Pierce, Rondo and Ray Allen. As was shown in the regular season matches against the Knicks, the Celtics straight up know how to win.
The Knicks best chance to take an early lead in the series will be to jump on Boston early and shoot well in the first half. If the Knicks can build an early lead in the game, they can take the life out of the TD Garden crowd, who have to be apprehensive about their team’s recent play. The Knicks can’t afford to go down early and let the Celtics get a groove, which would allow them to gain confidence on their home court.
So after years of meaningless games, the Knicks are back in the playoffs. A classic basketball rivalry is renewed. The Knicks, with their stars, will be looking to pull the upset. Stay tuned.