Eastern Conference first-round preview: Celtics vs. Knicks
Both teams were mediocre after their midseason blockbusters -- New York (42-40) went 14-14 after acquiring Carmelo Anthony, and Boston (56-26) went 15-12 after shipping Kendrick Perkins to Oklahoma City -- though the Knicks' recent seven-game winning streak gives them optimism. The Celtics' 4-0 record against New York carries little weight because circumstances for each team have changed so radically. This will be a series of pace: If the games are free-flowing and the ball is zipping up and down the floor, the Celtics will be in trouble.
The rebuilt Knicks are less unified than Boston, which -- combined with the drama of playing in New York -- makes this a good series for the Celtics to pull themselves together and play inspired team basketball. Look for Boston to spread the floor and create opportunities for Rondo to regain control. This could turn into a disaster for Boston if Billups is able to engage both Anthony and Stoudemire, but haven't we learned by now not to bet against the Celtics in these early playoff situations?