Rivers has made his name as a coach whose Celtics teams have thrived in the postseason. Rivers won the 2008 NBA Finals in his fourth year in Boston, and the Celtics have won at least one playoff series in each season since. The popular rag against the Celtics during that run has been related to the team's age. Many of the team's big names--Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen until this season--seemed to wear down near the end of regular seasons, only to amp back up come playoff time.
When it was revealed in the middle of a Celtics-Miami Heat game on Jan. 27 that Rajon Rondo had torn his ACL and would miss the rest of the season, the 20-23 Celtics' playoff hopes looked dire. But that day, Boston began a seven-game winning streak that set the pace for their playoff run. Rivers helped the team through several adjustments, including helping Avery Bradley assume the role as the primary ball-handler in Boston's offense.
Meanwhile, Woodson has had a much more successful and consistent team this season but has struggled historically as a coach in the playoffs. This will mark his fifth playoff appearance as a coach--three as the Atlanta Hawks' coach, and two now with New York--and he's 2-4 in his six career playoff series (the Hawks advanced past the first round in 2009 and 2010).
But Woodson hasn't had a team like this year's Knicks. They won 13 games in a row all the way up until an overtime loss to the Chicago Bulls on April 11. Carmelo Anthony has found another dimension to his game, a dimension in which he seemingly struggles to miss shots. The Knicks won the Atlantic Division for the first time since 1994, and Woodson won his first division title as a coach in eight years as a head coach.
The Knicks have had their health problems too, forcing Woodson to shift things around and maintain a healthy record and attitude heading into the playoffs. Anthony, Tyson Chandler, J.R. Smith, Rasheed Wallace, Kenyon Martin and Marcus Camby have all missed time lately.
The two coaches have only coached against each other in one postseason series. Rivers and the Celtics beat Woodson's Hawks in seven games in the first round of the 2008 playoffs on the way to the Celtics' championship.