Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers elected to sit the Big Three for Monday night’s contest against the Washington Wizards, and with Ray Allen and Paul Pierce sitting on the bench, and Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo both inactive, the second-team Celtics fell to the Wizards in overtime, 95-94.
The loss means that the Celtics now know their first round opponent in the upcoming playoffs will be a team they’re quite familiar with: the New York Knicks.
While a number of fans believe that the Knicks will be just a tune-up for the Celtics on their way to meeting the Miami Heat in the second round, the Celtics and Knicks have been going in opposite directions over the past two weeks.
While the Knicks sputtered for several weeks after the trade that brought Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups to New York, they have now won seven of their last ten, while the Celtics have sputtered at a .500 pace, including a woeful performance in the 100-77 loss at Miami on Sunday.
The C’s have had their own issues with personnel, with Jeff Green, Nenad Krstic and Troy Murphy still learning how to play within the Celtics system.
The Celtics will be challenged in the frontcourt in any series. Shaquille O’Neal, while expected back for the playoffs, will have no time to shake off the rustiness, and at 39 years of age, it may be a stretch to expect 20-25 minutes of quality play at this point in time. Jermaine O’Neal contributed 15 points and 13 rebounds in last night’s losing effort, however he no longer has the intimidation factor working for him, either.
While it’s certainly easy to assume that the Celtics should get past the Knicks in the first round, anything can happen in a seven-game series, and one would be hard-pressed to count out any team that features Anthony and Amar’e Stoudamire, along with a vastly experienced playoff producer in Billups.
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