BOSTON - Amare Stoudemire knew the challenges the Boston Celtics posed when he made the move to the New York Knicks last summer:
Defending Eastern Conference champions. Veteran team boasting future Hall of Famers. Multiple weapons on offense. Gritty defenders.
He had experienced it all before as a member of the Phoenix Suns.
They are the Eastern Conference champs and theyve won a championship here before in recent years, he said following the Celtics 112-102 win on Wednesday night. Theyre definitely the team to beat, so we have to make sure that we prepare for them.
Stoudemire thinks the sixth-seeded Knicks (42-40) have the pieces to do just that as they head into their first round playoff series against the third-ranked Celtics (56-26) on Sunday.
He believes the Knicks will have to play cohesively to defeat a Celtics squad loaded with options. This series will go beyond individual matchups between star players like Stoudemire (25.3 ppg, 8.2 rpg) and Kevin Garnett (14.9 ppg, 8.9 rpg), Carmelo Anthony (26.3 ppg) and Paul Pierce (18.9 ppg), and Chauncey Billups (17.5 ppg, 5.5 apg) and Rajon Rondo (10.6 ppg, 11.2 apg). The Celtics have had postseason success in the past by getting everyone involved in the action.
Garnett is obviously good in the post, he shoots the 15-footer well, so its just a matter of us really playing team basketball, Stoudemire said. Hes not the only threat out there. You have Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen, those guys are great, great players also. So he has a great supporting cast and weve just got to make sure we contain those guys.
Just as the Celtics will turn to their second unit to play a critical role in their success, Stoudemire hopes to get his entire team involved.
Its going to be very important that all of us are glued in and really studying these guys because theyre a great veteran team, he said. It takes for us to all be accountable on both ends of the court and actually know what were doing out there and play team basketball on both ends. So it takes dedication, it takes studying, especially in the playoffs.
The Knicks shook up their team and acquired Anthony in February for this very reason -- to win in the playoffs. After less than two months together, Stoudemire is confident in the chemistry he and Anthony have developed on the court.
We both are great offensive players, he said. I think the key for us is to get better defensively. But I think if we just continue to play as hard as we can and really try to win and get other guys involved, were going to be hard to stop. And I think Boston knows it. Theyre focusing on us as we are with them. Its going to be a tough match up.
Stoudemire is ready for this series. He knows the Celtics have been there before. Hes well aware of their proven track record in the postseason. But this is what he has been working toward all season, and he is up for the challenge against the Celtics star power.
They always say playoffs makes superstars, so this is the time where we all will step up and play great basketball, he said. It starts in Round 1, Boston-Knicks.
Jessica Camerato is on Twitter athttp:twitter.comjcameratoNBA