The Knicks’ first-round playoff opponent is set — an opponent we were a proponent of — and this Sunday in Boston, we’re going to find out just how good this New York team really is.
The positional match-up breakdown continues today, this time at shooting guard, in an attempt to show that the Knicks have a fighting chance to make some noise versus the championship-pedigreed Celtics.
And from a pure match-up standpoint, here’s why:
SG: Ray Allen v. Landry Fields
Let’s face it. The Knicks have no answers for Ray Allen.
It’s not a bad thing, it’s just a fact. Heck, Jesus Shuttlesworth has drained more career treys than Jared Jefferies has missed 3-footers — and that’s a lot.
The NBA’s all-time leader in 3-point field goals made (2616), Allen is a lethal shooter who makes his living off screens and kick outs. In fact, this season the 35-year-old veteran is averaging career bests in both shooting percentage (49.1) and 3-point shooting percentage (an amazing 44.4).
And therein lies the key to beating the Celtics. When Boston wins, Allen shoots well. When they lose, he doesn’t. Sounds simplistic, but sometimes these things are exactly as they seem.
So what are the Knicks to do?
First of all, whether it’s Landry Fields, Toney Douglas or Anthony Carter, the Knick defenders need to study tons of game film so that they understand where, when and how Allen likes to receive the ball.
Enter Mike D’Antoni.
The name of the game in defending a player of Allen’s style and pedigree is ball denial, because he’s proven time and time again over his Hall of Fame career that his near-perfect jump shot is virtually indefensible when he’s on.
Second of all… well, there is no second of all.
Again, to win the series, the Knicks must take two of Boston’s four stars away — or at least limit their freedom to play the way they like to play.
Which brings us to…
The Knicks currently lack a traditional SG, which is generally okay since their small forward, Carmelo Anthony, plays like a 2 anyway.
Their closest approximation — mostly based on his size and inability to legitimately play any other position — is the nominal starter Fields.
It would have been a real coup if the Knicks somehow could have included Fields in the ‘Melo deal instead of Danilo Gallinari, but I digress.
Look, Fields has great hair. I get it.
He rebounds. A lot. On a team that suffers from a roster-wide allergy to possessing basketballs that bounce away from the rim after missed shot attempts. I’m truly impressed.
And I can understand how fans found his early season dunks to be really cool and stuff.
But the sad reality is that Fields brings a limited offensive repertoire, questionable defensive intensity, and rookie-level experience to a playoff dinner party already crowded with more stars than Seth Rosenthal’s private table at Nobu.
It’s not that I don’t like Landry, and I am not saying that he can’t develop into a better than average NBA player, but at present I’m simply unable to make a case that he can be relied upon to give anything more than 20 virtually invisible minutes per game.
As such, you can expect to see a lot of Chauncey Billups running the point and Douglas at shooting guard throughout this series. This is problematic with respect to Billups defending Rajon Rondo, but this is the roster the Knicks have to work with. Who knows, perhaps New York catches lighting in a bottle for a game or two with Douglas on the offensive end.
The Knicks are ultimately at a major disadvantage versus the Celtics at the shooting guard position, but with a bit of dedication to making Allen work for his shots — and a lot of luck — they just might be able to withstand the deficiency.
SG EDGE: BOSTON
Check back every day this week as we analyze the rest of the Knick-Celtic positional match-ups.
TUESDAY – PG: Rajon Rondo v. Chauncey Billups
WEDNESDAY – SG: Ray Allen v. Landry Fields
THURSDAY – SF: Paul Pierce v. Carmelo Anthony
FRIDAY – PF: Kevin Garnett v. Amar’e Stoudemire
SATURDAY – C: “Shaqmaine” O’Neal v. Sheldon Williams
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