Only 190 miles separate the two major cities as two of the most historic franchises will collide for the second time in three years under the bright lights of the 2013 Eastern Conference Playoffs.
In this heated rivalry, the Knicks and Celtics have engaged in 13 postseason meetings dating back to 1951. Boston prevailed in the latest matchup in 2011, a year in which New York had to quickly gel after acquiring Carmelo Anthony at the trade deadline.
Since the Big Three formed in 2007, the Celtics have owned the Atlantic with five consecutive division crowns. Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Rajon Rondo also propelled Boston to a title in 2007 and another trip to the Finals in 2010.
That was then and this is now.
The Knicks secured the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference; they captured their first Atlantic Division title in 19 years, and snatched the season series from the Celtics for the first time since 2003-2004. New York’s average margin of victory in the three wins was 12.3.
“We want to beat them, let’s just be quite frank about it. We always want to beat Boston. New York always wants to beat Boston and when we do, it’s a great feeling,” Carmelo Anthony acknowledged following the Knicks win in Boston on March 26.
Anthony averaged 25.3 points and 7.5 boards in the four meetings between the two squads. Smith has added the second scoring punch against the Celtics by posting 20 points, seven rebounds, and two steals in 35.3 minutes of court time. Tyson Chandler only played in two of the matchups but managed to haul down an average of 12.5 rebounds.
Boston’s banged up club has missed Rajon Rondo since January 25 when he suffered a torn ACL. Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and defensive ace Avery Bradly have all dealt with a myriad of injuries throughout the year that has landed the team the No. 7 spot in the Eastern Conference playoff bracket.
In similar fashion, the Knicks were forced to adjust their lineups to counter significant injuries throughout the 2012-13 season. The frontline has taken a major hit without Chandler, Amar’e Stoudemire, Kenyon Martin, Rasheed Wallace, Marcus Camby, and Kurt Thomas all out for the moment. Thomas was released on Friday night to make room or Solomon Jones. Chandler and Martin are expected to be ready for first round action while Wallace hopes to return for the postseason and bolster New York’s thin frontcourt.
Despite the injury woes, the Knicks are the hottest team in the league with 15 wins in their last 16 outings. Anthony is sparkling in the month of April by averaging 38.6 points on 55.6 shooting from the floor. His MVP type of play has propelled New York to a 50-win season next Smith, who is enjoying his best season as a pro. The Sixth Man of the Year candidate is averaging 24.8 points and 6.6 rebounds in his last 10 games.
The two dynamic scorers are just part of a New York team that set the NBA record for most 3-pointers in a season and a squad that scores 100.2 points, allows 95.8, and commits a league low in turnovers at 11.6.
The Eastern Conference Playoffs will offer intriguing storylines with New York, Indiana, Chicago, and Boston sharing a history of postseason battles and deep rooted 90s rivalries.
It all starts with New York and Boston setting the stage in round one. Former Knick, Doc Rivers summed it up quite well in this tongue-in-cheek comment, “There is history long beyond us. New York and Boston…there is always history. There is lots of love…lots of love.”