The New York Knicks and Boston Celtics should be battling for the Atlantic Division title all season long. Boston is likely to be missing Paul Pierce for the season opener.
The New York Knicks made a trip to the playoffs last season, but they didn't look anything like a contender. They lacked a defensive presence in the middle to compliment Amar'e Stoudemire, played poor defense and were an average rebounding team. They addressed many of those issues with the signing of Tyson Chandler, but there are still lingering questions about whether or not they have enough defensively to hang with the Boston Celtics.
Those questions will linger for months, but even if the Knicks win the season opener in emphatic fashion. Jeff Green is out for the season, while Paul Pierce is doubtful for the opener with a heel injury. This means that Sasha Pavlovic is likely to see a lot of time, something the Knicks won't be too broken up about.
One injury does not make or break this Celtics team, however, and many will still back them to get by the Knicks due to their experience and chemistry. The other three members of the big four are healthy, and despite the advancing ages of Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, they should have at least one more year left in the tank. They should also benefit from a long offseason.
The Knicks should feel confident about opening the season with a win over their main rival in the current set of circumstances. If those circumstances change and Pierce is able to play productive minutes, we're probably looking at a much different ballgame.
Game Date/Time: Sunday, Dec. 25, 12:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Madison Square Garden, New York, NY