OK, I'm going to try to look at this rationally, not getting too high or too low. I really, really want the Knicks to beat the Celtics, mostly because of Pierce's home run trot and Garnett's general assholiness. But I have to look at this realistically.
Can the Knicks win this series? Of course they can. Do they have an actual good chance of doing so? It's difficult to say, but I'm going to go over some things and see if I can't get a little closer to figuring it out. If I can figure it out, maybe the Knicks can, too.
I do see the Celtics as vulnerable. There's this thought that they looked vulnerable last year and then turned it on and went all the way to the end of the finals, a few possessions (and perhaps a Kendrick Perkins knee) away from a championship. But that was last year. If the Celtics assume, even just a little in their mind, that they can turn it on the same way and do the same thing with no problem, they are extra-vulnerable.
That team, for whatever reason, got their asses kicked by that Perkins trade, kind of like I got my ass kicked by the Knicks trading away Felton, Gallo, Chandler and Mozgov. But the Knicks got Carmelo out of that deal. The Celtics got Jeff Green and Nenad Kristic. Both teams lost chemistry and soul, but the Knicks got a guy that the worlds best defense, clicking on all cylinders, would have a hard time stopping. Oh, and the Knicks also got Chauncey Billups - a guy who is about the same age as Boston's big three and has a similar record - actually, probably overall a better record - of playoff success.
And Shaq Schmaq - I don't see how a 38 year old gimpy Shaq is going to be scaring us. I'm more scared of the other O'Neal, but he's old too, and can be outrun.
So yeah, the Celtics are vulnerable and the Knicks have some great players with playoff experience, and a coach who's won plenty of playoff games as well.
But lets be real here. Despite the Knicks' recent winning streak, they haven't exactly been blowing away great teams. They've had moments where they've shown something special. I've been, overall, very pleased with Carmelo. But to me, they have not approached the synchronicity, especially on defense, that they showed before the trade. They've been getting by on pure talent, but you've got to get the pure talent synchronized if you want to beat a top seeded playoff team.
I think the Knicks have the potential to play some awesome, flowy, offensive basketball that can totally blow teams out of the water. But I don't think they're there yet. They are likely to have breakdowns that result in forced shots. True, when those forced shots are coming from Carmelo Anthony, that's not bad. I think that next year, they start to become monstrous offensively. But I think they're going to be either a little mistakey or a little stagnant at times during this series.
To overcome that against a tough, experienced Boston team, I think they're going to have to step up their defensive intensity and find a way to have those 6 minute stretches in which they completely fluster a team. Even though they weren't a great defensive team pre-trade, I thought they had the ability to play great team defense in stretches, and I don't think that's been as good post-trade. But I think they might be able to get that going. They should have more youthful energy against an aging Boston team. Boston is a team that's still crying on the inside about Perk. We need to bring that crying to the outside by encouraging their flustration. Luckily, they're old and cranky, except for Rondo, and Rondo can't hit an outside shot. So what has to happen?
1. Turiaf. The big question is: Wil he shave off his beard, and will it help, or hurt? If he shaves it, he might look less intimidating. He also might look more like Kendrick Perkins. Actually, he's a good defender, a good glue guy, especially defensively, and he finds subtle ways to contribute on the offensive end. Plus, he's got a years worth of chemistry with Amar'e, Toney, Landry, Extra E, and Bully. I say if he does these Perkinsesque things while sporting the Perkinsesque lack of facial hair, this could remind the Celtics of just what they lost. I say shave it. It's a risk, but I say do it. On the other hand, it may work out better if he doesn't. It's up to you Ronny. In any case, if he can remain injury free (and playoff schedules make that easier), and can remain on the court, I think he can be a big factor. I think he's been a big factor all year in refocusing the Knicks defensively and that's extremely important here.
2. Toney. Toney has been showing the balls and swagger lately, and I think it's likely he gets the Knicks a game with lights out three point shooting. But he also has to play point guard in the playoffs against Rondo, who is likely to fluster him. Toney will also have to channel his quickness and exuberance into effective defending against said Rondo. I think Toney will. And when it comes to guarding, Chauncey, Anthony Carter, and even Jeffries will be there to give Rondo a different look from time to time. If Toney can have one of those 7-10 from three nights in one of the first two games, the Knicks can seriously make and possibly take this series.
3. Landry. How Landry will he be under the glare of playoff pressure? I tend to think Landry will remain composed. I actually think there's a pretty good chance that Landry will begin to figure out ways to contribute within the Amar'e/Carmelo matrix of this team during this series. I like his matchup with Ray Allen, because although Allen is crafty, experienced, and scorey, Landry is younger, stronger, and longer. And Landrier. Ray Allen isn't going to knock Landry Fields on his ass or outwork him, or probably steal any rebounds from him. Matching up against the same opponent for a bunch of games in a row is, I suspect, might just be the kind of situation in which Landriness shines. Of course, I could be completely wrong about that. How that turns out will be a key.
4. Extra E. I think Shawne will do some corner pooping and will play some effective minutes spelling Amar'e during those times when he need rest or is in foul trouble. But I think that defensively, Gallo and Chandler were both kind of instrumental the the Knicks' bursts of defensive smotheration they used to do. Just a feeling, but I think Extra E needs to get a little better at being a part of that. I just have a feeling that Extra E is uniquely qualified, with his length, to step up the D.
In conclusion, to beat the Celtics, the Knicks are going to have to overcome their fledgling offensive chemistry. To do that, they will have to step up their defensive chemistry and take advantage of their youth and energy.
Prediction: If the Knicks can take one of the first two games, they win the series in 6 or 7. If not, they lose it in 5 or 6.