The Boston Celtics lived through a traumatic week off the court and will now try to lift the spirits of the greater Boston community when they return to action on Saturday for Game 1 of their playoff series with the New York Knicks.
After the tragic Boston Marathon bombing on Monday, the Celtics' final home game against Indiana was canceled on Tuesday. The team finished the regular season with a loss in Toronto but it has no doubt been an emotionally draining week for the Celtics as they prepared to take on the Knicks on Saturday afternoon.
With the focus back on basketball, Boston finds itself matched up with a New York team that is rolling and planning to carry the momentum of a 16-2 finish to the regular season into the first round of the playoffs. Throughout the Knicks sizzling finish, Carmelo Anthony scored more than 30 points in half of those games, including seven-straight games at one point. Melo scored at least 40 points three times, including a 50-point game in New York's win over the Miami Heat on April 2.
While Melo is certainly carrying a big scoring load, he's getting help from J.R. Smith off the bench and April Rookie of the Month Chris Copeland is coming along just in time to be a potential factor in the playoffs. But Amare Stoudemire remains injured and the Knicks front court health (age) has depleted their depth in the post. Back issues kept starting center Tyson Chandler sidelined for the last six games but he is ready to roll for the playoffs, which should give the Knicks a boost.
The Celtics finished the regular season with injury woes of their own as they tried to preserve Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce for a playoff push. Garnett is dealing with an ankle injury but played in four of the final six games to begin prepping for the playoffs.
Boston will need KG to help anchor a strong defensive effort if they hope to slow down Melo and the Knicks. The down time for the vets may have kept the Celtics in the No. 7 spot in the East, but it did give some valuable playing time to younger players who are showing signs of raising their level of play. Avery Bradley and Courtney Lee are a defensive-minded duo on the perimeter capable of disrupting any offense.
The key matchup is Melo vs. Green: This boils down to their best offensive player vs. our X-factor and there are tons of questions to consider. Will Green get enough help? Will he wear down on defense and thus be less aggressive on offense? Plus there's the matchup itself. Green can post up smaller forwards and out-quick larger forwards but Melo is a bit of a tweener like he is. Melo's not exactly known for his defense though, so it should be interesting to see what kinds of looks they try to get for Jeff.
Green averaged almost 13 points per game for the season, but scored over 19 points per game in the final ten. Plus, Green has the size to defend Anthony to counter the Knicks' small-ball approach and keep Paul Pierce free to focus on the offensive end.
The Knicks won the season series, 3-1, taking the last three. Game 1 is set to tip off from MSG at 3 p.m. ET and will be televised on ABC.