Celtics-Knicks preview: Limiting Carmelo

Celtics-Knicks preview: Limiting Carmelo
April 20, 2013, 10:15 am
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NEW YORK — As the newly crowned NBA scoring champion, it goes without saying that Carmelo Anthony is going to get his points regardless of what the Boston Celtics do defensively.

Making him work for those points will be the Celtics' greatest challenge in Game 1 of their best-of-seven series with the New York Knicks.

And it won't be the job of one or two players, either.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers has said Paul Pierce, Jeff Green and Brandon Bass would all see time guarding Anthony throughout this playoff series.

Giving him different looks defensively is certainly part of Rivers' strategy.

But just as important, it'll hopefully keep his guys from getting into early foul trouble.

"Carmelo, one of his best attributes for them is he’s a foul magnet," Rivers said. "He’s terrific at drawing fouls, at getting people in foul trouble."

During the regular season, Anthony took 512 free throws which ranked seventh among all NBA players.

Just as impressive was the fact that the six players ahead of him all appeared in at least nine more games this season, than Anthony.

Of the six players who took more total free throws than him this season, only four (Houston's James Harden, Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant and the Los Angeles Lakers' Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant) took more free throw attempts per game than Anthony's 7.6 average.

 "So we want to try to spread those fouls between three guys instead of one guy locked in to get in foul trouble," Rivers said. "Because if you guard him alone, you’re going to get in foul trouble. And we want to avoid that as much as possible.”

There's a good chance that Green will draw the first defensive assignment on Anthony.

"He's a guy that can score at will, a guy that can play multiple positions," Green said of Anthony who led the league in scoring with a 28.7 points per game average. "He's just one of the top players in this league. He presents a lot of problems. Not one guy can defend him all game. We have to do it as a team."

The Celtics did so in a 102-96 win at New York in January, a game in which Anthony shot 6-for-26 from the field and scored just 20 points.

"We just made every shot for him tough," Green said. "I think that's all we have to do."

That, and the Celtics got him in early foul trouble which was a factor in the Jan. 7 win. Anthony picked up his second personal foul at the 7:41 mark of the first quarter.

After a foul-free second quarter, he picked up his fourth personal foul with about three minutes to play in the third quarter and the score tied at 66. He went to the bench and the Celtics outscored New York 10-6 the rest of the quarter.

Regardless of how things played out in January, Celtics players and coaches don't believe it will have any significant bearing on tonight's game as they try to knock off a New York Knicks team led by one of the game's top players.

"Melo has had an MVP season," Rivers said. "Obviously, LeBron is the MVP. But Melo has had an MVP-type season. He really has changed as a player. He gives the ball up, he moves, cuts, he's been terrific."

Limiting his impact will indeed be one of the keys to tonight's outcome. Here are some others to ponder as the Celtics gear up for their first round series against the New York Knicks.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Either Paul Pierce or Jeff Green will have a matchup advantage depending on which lineup New York trots out to start the game. Look for one of those two, to get opportunities to score early on.

MATCHUP TO WATCH:  Kevin Garnett vs Tyson Chandler. Their respective team's defensive anchors, Garnett has to win this matchup in order for Boston to have a shot at Game 1. He has been limited to just three games in the month of April either because of injury or just a desire to get him some added rest before the playoffs. And in those three games, he didn't play more than 28 minutes in any particular game so his health should not be an issue.

PLAYER TO WATCH:  J.R. Smith should be the runaway winner of the league's Sixth man of the Year award, primarily because he has shown a maturity both on and off the court that he lacked in previous NBA seasons. If he's able to continue to play with the poise, focus and composure we've seen in the regular season, the C's are going to be hard-pressed to win this series.

STAT TO TRACK:  The Knicks turned the ball over a league-low 12 times per game this season, so Boston's ability get the most out of New York miscues will be huge. While the Celtics would love to get out and score in transition, they know that's a difficult thing to do in the playoffs. "I expect it to be kind of like a grind it out game, defensive battle," said Boston's Paul Pierce who added, "both teams are going to try and value the ball, get the best shots possible. As much as we say we want to run, the scoring goes down in the playoffs."