The Boston Celtics fell behind the upstart Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat in their bid to claim home court advantage throughout the East bracket of the 2011 NBA Playoffs. That has some serious ramifications early, as it means the C's will face the mysterious and sometimes wonderful New York Knicks in the first round. The Knicks fought to .500 with the addition of Amar'e Stoudemire and Raymond Felton, but around midseason shipped Felton and two other starters to the Nuggets for a certain Mr. Carmelo Anthony.
Since then, the Knicks have been erratic. As have the Celtics, who are hardly above .500 -- 15-12 -- since the All-Star break. The Knicks have been 14-12 since that point. Intrigue? You betcha.
Plenty. As noted a few paragraph breaks above, the Knicks and Celtics have played of similar quality since the All-Star break, and that is a bit better than average. The world nearly imploded when the Knicks went on a six-game losing streak. The reaction to this seven-game winning streak New York is currently on has been more mild. That will change if New York can steal Game 1 in the TD Garden. While odds aren't out quite yet, expect the Celtics' favorite status to be more mild than usual.
Amar'e calls himself Mr. April (is that really a compliment?), but Carmelo is the man of the hour. Anthony has averaged 30 points a game over his last 10, and in his career he averages 25 points and seven rebounds per game in the playoffs. In a six-game series against the Jazz last year, he averaged 30 a game on 46 percent shooting. He's an absolute offensive beast, and Paul Pierce will need some help stopping him.
Toney Douglas, maybe New York's best defender (backhanded accolade, I know) should also receive some shine. You know everyone on the Celtics, so unless Rajon Rondo gets suspended and Avery Bradley breaks out, the opportunity for surprise dap is low.
HINTS FOR THE FUTURE
Should Boston move forward, how Pierce and the frontcourt deal with 'Melo will be of utmost importance, considering that LeBron James awaits in the second round. The Celtics had success against LeBron a year ago, but that rumored elbow injury -- a malady so mysterious John Le Carré is upset he didn't come up with it -- was a factor in some way. Also, the Celtics are a year older. If they can't control 'Melo, the face-off with King James looms large, especially considering that LeBron has Dywane Wade instead of Landry Fields next to him on the wing.
If the Knicks move on, no one will care about the second round, because the hype will have engulfed us all like a suffocating blanket of lava.
MAINSTREAM MEME ALERT
It will take one game -- one game -- in which Stoudemire scores 30 points for the overheated "They got soft when they trade Perk!" nonsense to spark up. Kendrick Perkins basically did not play for the Celtics this season; Perk played 12 games before the trade. And Boston did just fine when he was on the inactive list recovering from offseason surgery. The center position is a problem, but the team's stuttering offense is a much bigger problem. So ignore the Perk talk when it comes to specific game impact, unless Ronny Turiaf goes off for 25 and Amar'e grabs six or seven offensive rebounds.
Boston in 7. For the balance of the season, the Celtics were a much, much better team. The Knicks go two deep in terms of star power; the C's go four deep, and have home court advantage. I can't see Boston losing more than one game at home, and I can definitely see the Celtics winning in New York.
Keep up with our Celtics Vs. Knicks, NBA Playoffs section for all the coverage of this series you need. For more on the Knicks, head over to Posting And Toasting and SB Nation New York. For Celtics' coverage and analysis, visit CelticsBlog and SB Nation Boston.