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 small forward, 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:
SF: Paul Pierce v. Carmelo Anthony
Finally, a match-up where the Knicks have an edge. Or at least the statistics say they have an edge. Or do they?
Below you’ll find unlabeled career averages for Paul Pierce and Carmelo Anthony — totals won’t work since Pierce has surprisingly been in the league five years longer than Anthony. Pierce’s first NBA season was actually 1998-99, which, as everyone knows, was the same year that Kendall Gill led the league in steals and Shareef Abdur-Rahim led the league in turnovers. But I digress.
At first glance, the numbers look eerily similar. Comparable scoring, bounding and sharing numbers. One player shoots a little more, at a better percentage, while the other player hoists 3-pointers more frequently and accurately. Both players seemingly play marginal defense and take decent care of the ball.
Basically, those stats aren’t all that helpful — and even less valuable as an unnamed comparison. ‘Melo is followed by Pierce, in case you were wondering.
But that’s not all.
Even further investigation reveals that both players share the same affinity for truly awful facial hair.
Pierce and Anthony have earned over $212m in their NBA careers combined. One would think an occasional visit to The Art of Shaving – or even a low-end Wahl trimmer — would be within reach.
Which brings us to…
The question of which team has the better match-up at the small forward position. But here’s the thing, there is no easy answer.
Perhaps most relevant — and ominous — is that Pierce averaged 26 points and 10 rebounds on an astonishing 53% shooting (58% from 3-point range) against the Knicks this season. Yikes.
Granted, it’s a small sample size (three games), but these kinds of numbers must be keeping Mike D’Antoni and Donnie Walsh up at night. James Dolan doesn’t sleep as it is. You know, on account of him being an alleged bloodsucking vampire and all.
Much like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, Pierce has proven to be at his most deadly when stoked by the opposition or their fans. Certainly the Garden faithful know this all too well.
In his brief time on Broadway though, ‘Melo has also shown himself to be as clutch as they come. Of course, it remains to be seen whether his penchant for late-game heroics will carry over under the glare of the postseason.
In the end, I suspect that whichever player can stay out of foul trouble while chasing the other around is going to end up leading his team to a series victory. As such, it will be key for D’Antoni to deploy both Shawne Williams and/or Bill Walker at times to defend Pierce, not only to preserve ‘Melo’s personal fouls, but also the energy that he’ll desperately need on the Knicks’ offensive end of the floor.
SF EDGE: EVEN
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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