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 power 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:
PF: Kevin Garnett v. Amar’e Stoudemire
There are times when I am really grateful to be bloggin’ up a storm instead of workin’ the Knicks beat next to my idol, Frank Isola. And this is one of those times. Here, I get to say whatever I want, without having to be impartial.
You see, few other players in the NBA irk me more than Kevin Garnett. I don’t feel this way because of his other-worldly talent, his incredible durability, or his legendary intensity and dedication. No, it’s just that watching “Da Kid” and his on-court histrionics renders the game-viewing experience unenjoyable for me.
Call me crazy, but there’s just something about hearing a grown man worth over a quarter of a billion dollars shout racial epithets and foul-mouthed vulgarities that makes my skin crawl.
Be that as it may, I’ll put aside my disdain for Garnett — and get my analysis on — because the Knicks are in the playoffs and stuff.
So what do the stats tell us?
Well, it’s not an especially encouraging picture if you’re an Amar’e Stoudemire fan, at least when it comes to head-to-head play versus Garnett.
Of course, many of these 21 games were played when Garnett was the Minnesota Timberwolves’ number-one scoring option, but the rest of the numbers don’t lie.
Garnett has significantly outplayed Stoudemire in most facets of the game, and especially the most important — wins.
And it doesn’t take a press credential to understand why. Garnett is listed at 6’11”, but most scouts agree that he is every bit of 7-feet tall. His length is exceptional — freakish, even — and when combined with his steadfast commitment to defense, it’s been a no-win situation for Amar’e in the past.
Stoudemire’s greatest asset is his quickness for his position and size, an attribute no doubt canceled historically by Garnett’s equal — and in some ways superior — athletic gifts. That, in addition to Stat’s allergy to playing defense, tells you all you need to know.
But the news isn’t all bad. That was then and this now.
Amar’e is in his absolute physical prime, while Garnett has played in 1289 regular and post season games during his 16-year career. That’s a lot of miles on that ol’ chassis.
For the season, Garnett is averaging under 15 points-per-game for only the second time in his career. Likewise, he’s also averaging career-lows or almost-lows in blocks, assists, offensive rebounds and minutes played.
Which brings us to…
A new dawn, a new day.
Unlike when he went up against Garnett back in Phoenix, Stoudemire now has an increasingly dependable mid-range jump shot in his arsenal.
As such, Garnett now has to be mindful of Stat’s shooting prowess, which in theory should present an opportunity for the latter to take the ball to the basket and induce foul calls.
Similarly to the Carmelo Anthony versus Paul Pierce match-up, the officiating will have a lot to say in who wins the power forward battle.
If they let ’em play, the Knicks could be in a for a nightmarish experience. If they call things more tightly, then Amar’e should be able to get the charity stripe early and often.
That latter scenario would present a fatal proposition for the Celtics, because losing Garnett’s inside presence for extended minutes would take away much of their size and toughness advantage — assuming Shaquille O’Neal remains MIA.
Also, don’t be surprised if Mike D’Antoni at times utilizes Sheldon Williams and/or Ronny Turiaf to cover Garnett on the defensive end in order to protect Stoudemire from foul trouble.
Ultimately, I expect Stoudemire to turn things around against Garnett and the Celtics during this series. He’s averaging 24 points (on 52% shooting) and over 8 rebounds-per-game against Boston this season, and that, my friends, portends good things from Number 1 come Sunday and beyond.
PF EDGE: NEW YORK
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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