BOSTON -- Raymond Felton, Iman Shumpert and the Knicks' guards have put an end to the size disadvantage in the first-round series. They have made the paint their playground, creating plays for themselves and their teammates. The Celtics' pick-and-roll defense has had no answer.
The Knicks' guards also have made the Celtics' bigger lineups look irrelevant in other ways, and it's started with their rebounding. In the series, Felton (4.3 rebounds per game), Shumpert (7.3) and Jason Kidd (6.5) have all far surpassed their season averages on the glass, and the Knicks own the rebounding margin against the Celtics.
Their board work in Game 4 was a major catalyst behind the Knicks' 20-point overtime-forcing comeback. Felton aggressively boxed out Avery Bradley. Kidd had six rebounds in the fourth quarter. And Shumpert chased down several defensive rebounds, taking the ball down himself to score, and offensive rebounds, facilitating second-chance opportunities.
"I knew I could help out a lot on the boards," Shump said. "I found myself standing a lot when I saw shots got up."
Not only did the Knicks' guards limit the Celtics' second-chance opportunities in Game 4, but when they snatched the bricks out of the air, they didn't hesitate to make the outlet pass to the main ball-handler. Each of them, including Pablo Prigioni, took off down the court with the Celtics on their heels time and time again. That's been a common theme throughout the series.
Their attack mode with the ball also stems from their aggressiveness on defense. In Game 4, Prigioni, Felton and Shumpert combined for nine steals. In the series so far, the Knicks have 44. The Celtics only have 21.
"When we get stops, whoever gets the rebound, we've got a number of guys who can push the ball," Mike Woodson said.
The Knicks' effective defense and rebounding-to-transition game is one of the main reasons why Woodson continues to play two or three guards at the same time. With Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler or Kenyon Martin in the frontcourt, the Knicks have an active wing runner who can quickly spot up from 3-point range, and two big men who thrive as trailers, finishers and clever screeners.
Steve Novak said that the Knicks' faster and efficient style of play, with several seasoned point guards leading the charge, makes them dangerous.
"The tempo's been good for us," he said. "Pablo and Raymond, and those guys, their head is up, they're looking for guys and guys know they're going to get it if they run. I think that it just makes us a threat."
Chandler agreed, "Absolutely, because we can keep the pace up, get the ball moving. ... [The guards] are just scrappy. It gives me a chance to anchor the defense and protect the rim, and on the other end, we get out and run."
While Anthony has been the consistent 30-plus scorer, the Knicks wouldn't be up 3-1 without their improved guard play on both ends of the floor. The little guys playing bigger in this series will be a key carry-over to further rounds, as the Knicks will usually have a size disadvantage in the backcourt.
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