In the battle of Beantown vs. the Big Apple, The Broadway Bigs Best the C's
New Yorkers are a buzz with hopes for a first professional championship title since 1973. The last time the Knicks won a playoff series, the New York Yankees beat crosstown rival the New York Mets in the 2000 World Series. I attended Game 1 at then Shea Stadium, the only one the Mets claimed.
Twelve years later, at Madison Square Garden for Game 4 of the New York vs. Miami first round NBA playoffs, I watched what would turn out to be the only game the Knicks won.
The arena was deafening and electric. Maybe that is the difference between the acoustics from a stadium to an arena, but one thing is certain: New York is a basketball championship starved town.
Fast forward to 2013. Jeff Van Gundy or Mike D'Antoni no longer roam the sidelines but there are familiar faces on the court: Kurt Thomas, Marcus Camby, now assistant GM Allan Houston, and the ever-present Spike Lee.
In honor of the 6 game Series, here are six observations from the Celtics-Knicks first round NBA playoffs:
1. From D'Antoni's pick-and roll offense to Woodson's defense
Carmelo Anthony and company may run the pick and roll or most likely the pick and ISO or the pick and screen offense but it is the defense Woodson installed that changed the team dynamic. Charles Barkley believes that Tyson Chandler is the only one on the team that plays defense (until they got K-Mart), but from Jason Kidd to Iman Shumpert to even Melo pitching in, the 'lock-down' mentality led to 58 wins and a 2nd seed in the playoffs this year.
2. Stat vs. JR
If you had said November 2, that JR Smith would end up being a more integral part of the team than Amare Stoudamire, most fans would have laughed. Yet, at 26, with his 100 tattoos, Smith won the 6th man award and showed a certain maturity that had been lacking, (until elbow-gate in Game 3). It is JR Smith, not the oft-injured Stoudamire, who led the team night in and night out when some of the older players couldn't play.
3. Kid and Play
In the year 1990, the Knicks finished 3rd in Atlantic division and grabbed the 8th playoff spot. It was also the year that Kid and Play debuted the hairstyle that Iman Shumpert would rock this season. Shumpert would leave the first round playoff Miami series last year after blowing out his knee. This year, he (and his hair), have become a certified playmaker at both ends of the floor. In game 6, it was Shumpert who was instrumental in stopping the furious 20-point comeback from the Celtics in the 4th quarter to capture the series.
4. Four on the floor
Jason Kidd is 40. 4-0. You may not want him to shoot the ball in the clutch. You may not want him to play an entire game with his knees. Yet he still throws his body on the ground when he sees a loose ball or slams into a player half a foot taller than him. His intuitive no-look passes are just as amazing as when he debuted as a rookie in 1994. He may be four decades old but his leadership is invaluable on the floor and in the locker room.
5. Young Folks
The aging Celtics made the Knicks look young most of the first round. Without speedy Rajon Rondo, and Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in the twilight of their careers, Boston looked lethargic and slow -- until game 4 when they finally found their mojo. KG and Pierce, with assists from Brandon Bass and Jason Terry, reached into their collective bag of tricks and started playing like the three-party of old, minus Ray Allen.
The Knicks, inexplicably playing zone defense at times, then turned into the slow team, finding it hard to guard the perimeter. Yet it was the squad with the average age of 33 that moves onto the second round vs. the Indiana Pacers.
6. What a difference a year makes
JR Smith won the 6th man of the year. JKidd won Sportsman of the Year for the 2nd year in a row. Mike Woodson has a good chance to win coach of the year. The Knicks may not make out of the 2nd round to (most likely) play Miami or win but if they do, this year already feels like a winner.
After an extremely hard-fought series, the Knicks are slightly beat up. Yet, they proved they could win in the playoffs with defense and experience. Hopefully it won't be another 40 years before New York City gets another championship.