Celtics-Knicks Series Preview

CLASSIC RIVALRY TIPS OFF PLAYOFF WEEKEND: BOSTON CELTICS VISIT NEW YORK KNICKS

We're here in the NOTEBOOK to preview the first of EIGHT series NBA Playoff first round series that get underway this weekend. We're focusing here on the renewal of the storied Boston/New York rivalry that will tip off the first big weekend of action. Tomorrow we'll preview the Lakers/Spurs series, which is the showcase matchup Sunday afternoon. Then, early Sunday, we'll crunch the numbers in Houston/Oklahoma City...the James Harden Homecoming.

We'll focus on the same key indicator stats in in each preview...and through the full playoffs. That approach worked out very well for us during MARCH MADNESS, as you could find hidden contenders and eventual pretenders by digging deep into the data. Let's see how the Celtics and Knicks stack up.

WON-LOST RECORDS VS. .500 OR BETTER
Boston: 19-23
New York: 23-20

That's surprisingly close for a #7 vs. #2 matchup. The Knicks did a great job of bullying bad teams this year, but were barely better than 50/50 vs. quality. Boston was a big disappointment overall, yet they were barely under .500 vs. quality. This speaks well to Boston's chance to at least compete in this series. In terms of "what works in the playoffs," Boston really isn't that far behind New York...and New York is pretty far away from championship caliber.

OFFENSIVE EFFICIENCY RANKINGS
Boston: #20
New York: #3

New York's strength this year was on offense. They led the league in three pointers. They committed fewer turnovers than anyone else. Carmelo Anthony made better choices this year regarding shot selection, and was a very effective passer out of double teams. New York's offense is a handful for any defense to deal with. Boston was below average...but really didn't miss Rajon Rondo very much after his injury because he was turnover prone and a poor shooter.

DEFENSIVE EFFICIENCY RANKINGS
Boston: #6
New York: #16

No surprise here. This Boston regime has emphasized defense through the years...and is a perennial playoff team because of that. New York's defense received some good press. But, that was an illusion created by playing a very slow tempo. They're only an average defense when you look at points per possession.

REBOUND RATE RANKINGS
Boston: #30
New York: #17

Boston barely bothers with offensive rebounding. If a shot goes up, everyone runs back to play defense. That kills their rebounding stats! They're not as bad on the defensive boards as that ranking would suggest. Their recent strategy has been "defense and defensive rebounding wins championships" as they just don't care about offensive boards.

PACE RANKINGS
Boston: #16
New York: #26

BEST EXPECTATION
It's not well-understood that New York is one of the slowest teams in the league. They shoot so well out of a set offense that the offense puts up good numbers. If the offense is putting up good numbers, people assume they're moving the ball well. New York is actually FANTASTIC out of set offenses, but slow as molasses. Would you have guessed that aging Boston was 10 spots faster than the Knicks in pace factor this year?

Breaking it down...Boston has the better defense...but New York has better offense, rebounding, and is more suited to a playoff style pace. Though, Boston is so experienced that the Celtics won't be thrown by a slow pace. The problem is...New York's offense is amazingly effective in the halfcourt game that Boston's stars have gotten used to playing in the postseason.

For Boston to win four games in seven they'll have to have four very good shooting games, or hope that the Knicks go cold from behind the arc. We may reach some point where New York's reliance on the trey is going to become "live by the three, die by the missed three." That's more likely to happen vs. Indiana or Miami in later rounds.

Favoring Boston: More playoff experience and the better defense
Favoring New York: Peaking at the right time while enjoying home court advantage with a dynamic offense that's likely to make a run at about 10 made treys per night.

JIM HURLEY is very likely to have one or two big selections in this series. And, Game One may present a BEST BET opportunity on game day Saturday. You can purchase all game-day selections right here at the website with your credit card, as well as our full playoff package. If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453.

Back tomorrow for a NOTEBOOK series assessment of Lakers/Spurs. Can Los Angeles compete without Kobe Bryant? Are the Spurs so banged up that ANYONE can compete with them right now? That could turn out to be a very interesting series!

Don't make a move during the first week of NBA Playoff action until you hear what JIM HURLEY has to say!

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