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 (mercifully) concludes today, this time at center, 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:
C: “Shaqmaine” O’Neal v. The Sheldiaf
So, can you tell how enthused I am about analyzing the juicy match-ups at C for the Knicks-Celtics series? Ah, the joys of Photoshop. Good times.
With respect to the big men — or should I say in the case of the Celtics, their rotting carcasses — what should we expect?
Well, coming into this season, the Celtics best intentions made some sense. Acquiring an aged tandem of Shaquille O’Neal and Jermaine O’Neal to contribute limited minutes — in anticipation of facing the big-bodied Lakers in the finals again — cost them almost nothing.
But I’m pretty sure that the Boston brain-trust never considered that they would get so little return on their investment.
Both were injured virtually throughout the entire 2010-11 campaign, and Shaq and Jermaine played in just 37 and 24 games, respectively. Adding insult to injury, their performance can only be described as D-league worthy.
Shaq actually averaged under 10 points-per-game for the first time in his career. He also grabbed less than five boards per night, which is almost unthinkable, given that he’s still listed as 7’1″ and a generous 325 lbs.
In fairness, O’Neal’s steadily declining minutes negatively impact his numbers, but it has been the big fella’s inability to stay healthy — and stay away from donuts — that’s the real culprit here.
And now word comes from Fred Kerber of the New York Post that Shaq has been ruled out for tomorrow night’s game. Shocker.
Gee, that Danny Ainge really outsmarted everyone by trading Kendrick Perkins to the Oklahoma Thunder for Jeff Green, huh? Especially himself.
Sure, the Celtics never expected not to be unable to resign Perkins, but their current lack of depth up front — regardless of the threat posed by the Knicks — means that those championship plans in Boston are likely dead on arrival.
Which brings us to…
The Knicks don’t have a true center on the roster — O Mozgov, Where Art Thou? — so the less than reliable pairing of Shelden Williams and Ronny Turiaf (the “Sheldiaf”) will try to contribute some measure of grunt-work and defensive intensity against the Celtics.
Rather than bore you with the absence of statistics for the Knicks nominal centers, let’s just focus on the good news.
In limited minutes — opportunity being the issue for Williams versus injuries for Turiaf — both players have shown some moxie, particularly on the defensive end, which is where the Knicks will need them to help Amar’e Stoudemire contain Kevin Garnett.
If the two-headed Knicks’ center-monster can successfully limit Garnett’s ability to draw fouls on Stoudemire, and also keep Glen “Big Baby” Davis from opportunistic put-backs on the offensive glas, New York will find itself excellent position to steal the series.
Didn’t see that one coming, did ya?
C 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. The Sheldiaf
TUNE IN PRE-GAME FOR MY SERIES PREDICTION!
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