ESPNNewYork.com's Ian Begley and Jared Zwerling, along with ESPNBoston.com's Chris Forsberg, previewed a potential Knicks-Celtics matchup in the playoffs.
1. If the postseason started today, where do the Knicks and Celtics have the edge and what are their biggest missing links?
BEGLEY: For the Knicks, home-court advantage. They'd host a potential Game 7, and the Celtics are 12-23 on the road this season. The missing link for the Knicks could be a secondary post scorer. With Amar'e Stoudemire out, they lost a player who can score with his back to the basket, which is pivotal in the playoffs.
ZWERLING: The Knicks are ramping up their defense, which is key against the physical Celtics, and are much deeper at point guard (the Celtics will be at a major loss without Rajon Rondo). The Knicks will be missing Stoudemire's low-post scoring, as they'll need more than 3-pointers to get by Boston.
FORSBERG: The Celtics just lost their defensive anchor, Kevin Garnett, for two weeks. If he's healthy for the playoffs, that's key. They had recently had a defensive rating of 96.7, while going 16-6 in its first 22 games without Rondo. That said, not having their All-Star point guard will challenge the Celtics to score.
2. Which matchup would you most look forward to in the series?
BEGLEY: Paul Pierce and Carmelo Anthony. Each team's fate would rest largely on their leader. In his last 13 games against the Knicks, Pierce is averaging 27.8 points per game and he's hit 49 percent from beyond the arc. Anthony is averaging 28.1 points in his last eight games against Boston, but the Knicks are 3-5.
ZWERLING: Sixth men J.R. Smith vs. Jordan Crawford. Without Stoudemire, the Knicks are going to need more offense from their bench, and Smith is that guy. The key is his efficiency and getting to the foul line, which he's been doing lately. Crawford is also streaky, but Smith wins the matchup with his D and transition play.
FORSBERG: An intriguing matchup to me might be the battle of the backcourts. New York is trotting out that two point-guard combo lately in Raymond Felton and Pablo Prigioni. The Celtics, meanwhile, don’t have a pure ball-handler and are sufficing with a starting backcourt of Avery Bradley and Courtney Lee.
3. Who would be the X-factor for either team in the series?
BEGLEY: Bradley and Iman Shumpert. If Bradley can bother the Knicks' primary ball-handlers enough and disrupt their offense, the Celts would have a great chance to pull off an upset. If Shumpert can defend Pierce with the ferocity he showed as a rookie, the Knicks should be able to handle the Cs.
ZWERLING: Two former Mavericks teammates, Jason Kidd and Jason Terry. Kidd's 3-point shooting will help the Knicks, and he makes smart plays down the stretch. Terry is also dangerous from downtown and he hits big shots in the playoffs. Both players' veteran experience will come in handy in critical moments.
FORSBERG: Jeff Green is the X-factor. Green exploded for 43 points last Monday against the Heat, but those kinds of outbursts tend to be the outlier. In a series against New York, Green would be vital in helping Pierce and Garnett defend Anthony, while posing a potential matchup problem at the other end of the floor.