Inside the Matchups: Knicks vs. Celtics

Here is a look at the position-by-position matchups in the first-round Eastern Conference playoff series between the New York Knicks and Boston Celtics:

Point Guard

Chauncey Billups vs. Rajon Rondo

They couldn't be any more different, although that is usually the case when comparing any point guard to Rondo. Billups is a steadying influence, a shotmaker, a veteran voice in the locker room and a slow guy. Rondo is a quick guy, a player the opposition wants taking shots, so long as they are jump shots, and a ball handler whose extraordinary penetration skills break down opposing defenses and allow the ball to get delivered to an open teammate. One trick to defending Rondo is to keep him from getting the ball in the open court so that he can create in transition; another trick is to back off him in the half court and dare him to shoot. The Knicks will want to push the ball to create open shots in transition, but that is not Billups' forte -- which is why we could see lots more of the two-PG alignment the Knicks have used at times with Toney Douglas playing alongside Billups.


Shooting Guard

Landry Fields vs. Ray Allen

One is an aging sharpshooter who was second in the NBA in 3-point accuracy (behind Matt Bonner) but had the ball in his hands a lot less in the final 20 games of the season, reaching 20 points just once. The other is a rookie who has struggled to fill the niche he filled so superbly over the first two-thirds of the regular season before the big trade. Allen is a known commodity, whereas Fields is the exact opposite. Fields is capable of providing the rebounding and hustle plays that coach Mike D'Antoni has said will be crucial to the Knicks' chances of winning this series, but it's a matter of whether he plays with confidence. With rookies, that is always a mystery. If Fields is ineffective, he will spend a lot of time watching Douglas, Anthony Carter and/or Bill Walker eat up his minutes.


Small Forward

Carmelo Anthony vs. Paul Pierce

If a game comes down to one shot, one of these two guys is going to take it. Both are supremely confident shooters and exceptional one-on-one players, though Anthony has the ability to be more of a dominant force offensively because his size and strength make him an especially tough player to defend. Anthony has become a 43 percent 3-point shooter with the Knicks and is now confidently firing them up from well beyond the arc. Pierce has more big-game playoff experience and is as cold-blooded as they come. Expect to see the Celtics run Pierce off screens the way they usually do with Allen, forcing Anthony to chase him and exert extra energy on the defensive end. Undoubtedly the key matchup in the series.

Advantage: Even

Power Forward

Amare Stoudemire vs. Kevin Garnett

The Garnett of five years ago is a lot like the Stoudemire of today, mixing up his inside and outside game and being a go-to scorer for a majority of his minutes. Garnett still brings an intensity that few, if any, NBA players bring to every single game, and he is the vocal leader of an aging Celtics team. Stoudemire is not needed to produce offense the same way he was before the Anthony trade, yet he remains one of the top one-on-one big men in the league and can be a decent defender and adequate rebounder when he isn't saddled by foul trouble. Stoudemire also scores much more of his points from the perimeter than he did when he was with the Suns. He has the most postseason experience of any of the Knicks, and his level of energy (he can't play scared if he gets one or two early fouls) will be one of the key intangibles to keep an eye on.



Ronny Turiaf vs. Shaquille O'Neal

Shaq can still be a dominant force when healthy, but he's never healthy. He has played a total of only five minutes over the past 2½ months, and his availability for Game 1 (and his effectiveness level) is the biggest question mark Boston has coming into the series. If he can't go, Jermaine O'Neal will start in his place. But he, too, has missed major time because of injuries, and the Celtics could end up leaning more than they'd like on Nenad Krstic, who came over in the Kendrick Perkins trade. Turiaf is a banger who will be encouraged to bang, and D'Antoni will supplement him with Shelden Williams and Jared Jeffries, both of whom are limited players (Jeffries is a horrible offensive player, Williams is a power forward masquerading as a center).



Toney Douglas, Shawne Williams, Jared Jeffries/Shelden Williams, Anthony Carter and Bill Walker vs. Jeff Green, Glen Davis, Delonte West and Nenad Krstic

All of the Celtics' key reserves bring nice offensive games off the bench, and Davis is the strongest defender of the bunch. West is the best backup point guard the Celtics have had in several years, but he is their only 3-point threat off the bench unless Doc Rivers digs deep and goes to Troy Murphy. The Knicks' fortunes will hinge in large part on the 3-point capabilities of Douglas and Shawne Williams (and perhaps Walker, if Fields struggles), but Douglas is an incredibly streaky shooter and a player still learning how to efficiently run an offense when he is at the point, and Williams is a fine 3-point shooter from the corners but not so much from other spots outside the arc.

Advantage: Even


Mike D'Antoni vs. Doc Rivers

Rivers is playing out the final season of his contract and could be a goner by next season, while D'Antoni has had fewer than 30 games to work with the two superstars he expected to eventually get when he signed up for this job nearly three years ago. His judgment day is still a year away if his team loses this series. Rivers is a defensive-minded coach who never would have made the Perkins trade if he was running the front office, while D'Antoni is an offensively oriented coach who had to throw out half of his 7-seconds-or-less playbook to accommodate the players who were brought in from the 14-player megatrade. Both men are as good-natured as they are competitive, but only Rivers has led a team to the NBA Finals (he has done it twice). For D'Antoni to succeed, he must continue to get Anthony to buy into the ball movement strategy that will be a key component of making the Knicks' offense effective against the NBA's No. 1 defense.

Advantage: Even