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Knicks-Celtics Outlook

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No. 2 New York Knicks vs. No. 7 Boston Celtics

Series Price: New York -380, Boston +315

Series Format: New York, 2-2-1-1-1

Game 1 - Saturday, April 20 (3:00 PM EST, ABC)
Game 2 - Tuesday, April 23 (8:00 PM EST, TNT)
Game 3 - Friday, April 26 (8:00 PM EST, ESPN)
Game 4 - Sunday, April 28 (1:00 PM EST, ABC)
Game 5* - Wednesday, May 1 (TBD)
Game 6* - Friday, May 3 (TBD)
Game 7* - Sunday, May 5 (TBD)

HEAD TO HEAD COMPARISONS
TEAM SU ATS HOME AWAY OVER/UNDER PPG DPPG
New York Knicks 54-28 46-34-2 31-10 23-18 39-41-2 100.0 95.7
Boston Celtics 41-40 36-42-3 27-13 14-27 42-38-1 96.5 96.7
2012-13 Head to Head Meetings
Date Results Total
03/31/13 Boston 89 @ New York 108 (-6.5) UNDER 197.5
03/26/13 New York 100 (+2.5) @ Boston 85 UNDER 194
01/24/13 New York 89 (-1) @ Boston 86 UNDER 189
01/07/13 Boston 102 (+7.5) @ New York 96 OVER 191.5
Skinny: These teams saw each other to open the preseason. They didn't care for each other very much then and certainly won't be holding back any venom now that only one of them can move forward.

If there's a bench-clearing affair to be seen in the first round, it's likely to come here. That Metta World Peace lurks in another potentially physical series out West has been taken into account in that opinion, but there isn't even half as much bad blood between long-time rivals like the Lakers and Spurs as there is here. One of the more memorable images of a season filled with them was Carmelo Anthony waiting around for Kevin Garnett outside where the team buses were parked following the first regular season meeting on Jan. 7. Anthony felt Garnett had crossed the line during in-game verbal jarring and originally went toward Boston's locker room before being restrained by security.

The situation blew over and the teams have faced each other three times since, but you just know the pressure of these playoffs are going to emotions simmering on high. It won't take much to reach full boil. Beyond Anthony and Garnett's beef, there are also known agitators Paul Pierce, Kenyon Martin, Jason Terry and J.R. Smith to watch in a series where head games will be as much of the equation as defensive adjustments.

In fact, Boston's best bet is actually to try and get inside Anthony's head in an effort to add to the enormous pressure he'll be under from long-suffering Knicks fans who expect to get out of the first round for the first time since 2000 and are relying on the franchise's first NBA scoring champion since 1985 (Bernard King) to deliver the goods.

Anthony says he's feeling no pressure, but this series requires him to put the Knicks on his back. The last few weeks have spoiled everyone. He averaged 36.9 points through eight April games to lock up the Atlantic Division and a No. 2 seed, shooting 54 percent from the field and 47 percent from 3-point range. After notching just four double-doubles in New York's first 70 games, Anthony put together six in his last 10 games, demonstrating a drive that has him entering this postseason in beast mode. If he's unable to meet newly inflated expectations, it will be labeled a choke job. Amar'e Stoudemire is unlikely to play in the series. The stage is Melo's alone. No excuses.

Boston coveted the spoiler role here, coasting down the stretch to wind up in seventh once it became apparent the Knicks would finish No. 2. Expectations plummeted when Rajon Rondo tore his ACL, but the Celtics can't afford to wallow given the limited shelf life of Garnett and Pierce. Jeff Green and Courtney Lee have picked up their level of play down the stretch, while Avery Bradley's defense has been effective in helping replace Rondo at the point. With Doc Rivers pushing buttons, the Celtics feel they have a fighting chance in the Eastern Conference's most compelling first-round series.

Head-to-Head Matchups: New York won three of four meetings with the Celtics, but Garnett and Chandler only played twice, missing both March matchups. Rondo was a part of the first Boston loss, Stoudemire also saw time and the teams that will take the court Saturday afternoon will be dramatically different. Chandler and Garnett will match up in the middle coming off plenty of rest. New York's center has played four times since March 14 and has sat since April 7. Garnett has played 70 minutes since March 22, storing energy once it was clear the Celtics would be a playoff team. How both fare and whether they can get back in rhythm while avoiding foul trouble is essential since they will be anchoring the defense and typically expertly patrol the paint.

At the point of attack, Avery Bradley's ability to pressure and harass could spell trouble for Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd, especially with normal starter and deft ball-handler Pablo Prigioni out for Game 1 with an ankle injury. Mike Woodson is likely to find minutes for Iman Shumpert's energy and perimeter defense, while Chris Crawford's late surge could earn him more time. The unheralded rookie could be an x-factor to make Paul Pierce work on the defensive end with Jeff Green likely to be on Melo detail. The Celtics have done a great job forcing Anthony into tough shots in the four meetings, limiting him to sub-.500 shooting every time. He shot 35 percent (36-for-103) from the field, including 9-for-30 from 3-point range. J.R. Smith averaged 20 points per game and participated in all four meetings, but shot just 39 percent against Boston. He'll see plenty of Pierce and Lee.

Betting Notes: Boston swept the last playoff series between these teams in 2011, but with Stoudemire likely a scratch for the duration of it due to is ailing right knee, Anthony, Pierce and Garnett are the only players left from either roster. New York has won three playoff games since its 2000 Eastern Conference finals loss to Indiana, failing to advance to the second round in four appearances. Boston has gotten out of the first round five straight years, but have been the favorite in that opening series each time. The Celtics join No. 8 Milwaukee as the only playoff teams to have a negative scoring margin. The Knicks join only top-seeded Miami as Eastern Conference teams that averaged 100 or more points for the season. New York is sizzling against the number down the stretch, covering nine of their last 11.

Series Outlook: With TNT playing such a large role in playoff coverage, we'll be hearing a lot of "we know drama" tags. This series should fit that billing best of all. Having defeated the Celtics twice at TD Garden this season, the Knicks are confident they can make this series a brief one. Meanwhile, Pierce is the type that relishes Spike Lee's presence and antagonizes the New York crowd by blowing kisses after key buckets. Pushing the Heat the past few years have this Boston nucleus comfortable in an underdog role, so testing the Knicks' will and mental toughness will be key to their approach. If they force Anthony and Smith into sub-40 percent shooting like they did in the regular season and get contributions from the supporting cast, they can win this series. If Melo stays hot and keys a 3-point barrage that makes New York the East's most dangerous team not named the Heat, he'll lift a massive burden off his shoulders. However it goes, this is too juicy a matchup not to want it to go the distance.

  
HEADLINES
David: Sunday's Early Action
Rogers: Sunday's Late Action
Sportsbook: Sunday's Playoff Games
Lawrence: Opening Round Angles
Mejia: Fearless Predictions
Lawrence: Zig-Zag Theory
Hawks embarrass Pacers in Game 1
Warriors beat Clips in playoff opener
Nets beat Raptors 94-87 in Game 1
MORE HEADLINES
 
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