The Boston Celtics and New York Knicks are two of the most imbalanced teams in the NBA in terms of offense and defense. That they'll meet in the first round of the 2011 NBA Playoffs is either poetic or fortuitous. There's a familiar but inaccurate refrain that is sung in chorus this time of year: defense wins championships. In truth, in the NBA, defense and offense are equally important.
For these teams, defense and offense are not equally important. Boston boasts the No. 2 defense in the NBA, finishing a half a hair behind the Chicago Bulls for the top spot. This has been the Celtics' identity since Kevin Garnett came to town: restrict the other team from scoring, and Boston's overwhelming talent and savvy on offense will handle business. And it's worked, to the tune of two Finals appearance in three years and one championship.
The offense isn't consistent by any means, though, which is another constant during Garnett's tenure. This season, the Celtics finished a woeful No. 19 in offense, behind the Warriors, Pistons and every playoff team but the Hawks and Pacers. The team shoots rather well, No. 7 in the league with a .519 effective field goal percentage. The Celtics also draw fouls well (No. 8). But everything else is bad: Boston finished No. 28 in turnover rate (turnovers on 14.5 percent of possessions) and dead last in offensive rebound rate (o-boards on just 21.1 percent of own misses). It comes out to mediocrity on offense.
The Knicks are the exact opposite. New York finished No. 7 in the NBA in offense, and No. 22 in defense. The Knicks' offense is buoyed by the No. 8 shooting clip in the league (.513 eFG), the fifth lowest turnover rate (12.6 percent) and the No. 4 foul drawing rate. Like the C's, New York is mediocre on the offensive glass (No. 24), but the Knicks are overwhelming better at this offense thing than Boston.
Defense is where the Knicks lose it. New York has the No. 23 shooting defense, the No. 26 defensive rebounding rate and fouls more than all but six teams. The Knicks do create turnovers at a good rate (No. 8), and that's one area Boston needs to keep heightened awareness.
But across the board, the Celtics' iffy offense is facing a bad New York defense, while the Knicks' bread and butter -- offense -- faces the challenge of a truly elite defense. If you ride with the Knicks, you're betting they can overcome Boston's strength while preventing the C's from exploiting the Knicks' own weakness? It's a tough bet to take.
All data from the excellent Basketball-Reference.com.
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