By Charlie Widdoes (Twitter)
Knicks vs. Celtics | Madison Square Garden
When: Sunday | 3:00 PM
Where to Watch: MSG Networks
Where to Listen: ESPN 98.7 FM
Knicksnow Live In-Game Chat
New York: It's finally time. Almost a week after locking up the 2 seed against the Pacers, the Knicks finally get the chance to play another meaningful game. After winning 16 of their last 18 games to finish the season, they've had a chance to heal up -- especially their two big men, Tyson Chandler and Kenyon Martin. Both have been practicing and figure to play huge roles against Boston's athletic front line. Starting guard Pablo Prigioni is recovering from a sprained right ankle and is listed as questionable for today's game.
Boston: We have some great, in-depth scouting reports on the Celtics that everybody should check out: here and here. Basically, the Celtics' identity continues to be tied to their defense, which finished the year ranked 7th in points allowed per 100 possessions but is probably better than that number would suggest. As Knicks fans know, Kevin Garnett is the anchor of that unit, but Avery Bradley is also no slouch. Between them, Boston does not concede much on pick-and-rolls. Offense is a different story, though, as the Celts finished 24th in the league in points per 100 possessions.
The Numbers Game
The Knicks won the Atlantic Division this season for the first time since 1994. The Celtics had won it the previous five years.
Matchup to Watch
Tyson Chandler vs. Kevin Garnett
Who will win the pick-and-roll game? It's the most fundamental play in the NBA, and teams can win or go home based on its success. Chandler and Garnett with impact the game like no other players with the way they hedge and recover on screens, roll hard to the hoop, cover for their teammates with help-side defense and clean up the glass. Both teams play with different lineups -- going big, going small -- but they depend on their dynamic centers to set the tone on both ends.
What to Look For
For the Knicks, the big question is if Prigioni will start, and if not, who will start in his place. Whether it's Chris Copeland or James White or anyone else, they will need to play with the energy from the opening tip for which Prigioni is known. Mike Woodson's rotation figures to shrink somewhat, as Carmelo Anthony, Chandler and perhaps others command more minutes. They were able to rest some key guys down the stretch, so they should be up to the task.
In the wake of the recent tragedy in Boston, the Celtics will, no doubt, be itching to get on the court and represent for their passionate fans. The atmosphere between these two teams is always intense, so expect to see a physical affair that is filled with emotion. The Celts have been experimenting with "big" lineups recently, in which Pierce spends time at the 2. We'll see if that continues, but with Martin and Copeland and Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith, the Knicks have shown the ability to mix and match with their defensive versatility.