Knicks' Stoudemire ready to face tested Celts


Knicks' Stoudemire ready to face tested Celts

By JessicaCamerato

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

WATCH: Celtics vs. Magic

WATCH: Celtics vs. Magic

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Celtics-Magic preview: Orlando's poor offense gives C's chance to bounce back


Celtics-Magic preview: Orlando's poor offense gives C's chance to bounce back

Talk about your basketball extremes.

After losing a 107-106 heartbreaker to Houston and their high-powered offense on Monday, the Boston Celtics will be in for a very different -- and less successful -- foe tonight in the Orlando Magic.

The Magic beat Washington 124-116 on Tuesday night despite John Wall’s 52-point effort, but have been one of the NBA’s most offensively challenged teams this season.

Orlando ranks near the bottom in scoring (29th, 94.6 points per game), field goal percentage (28th, .426) and Pace (24th, 96.71) this season.

But Frank Vogel’s crew has been a defensive force thus far in the East even if their record might suggest otherwise.

They rank among the league’s best in several defensive categories such as scoring defense (4th, 98.0 points per game allowed); opponent 3-point percentage (3rd, 33.0 percent), opponent 3-point attempts (4th, 23.6) in addition to allowing a league-low 8.0 made 3's per game.

That will be a stark contrast from the let-it-fly-all-night style Boston had to contend with against the high-scoring Rockets on Monday.

But this set of games is exactly why Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge made of point of trying to put together a roster that was heavy on athleticism and versatility both in the frontcourt as well as on the perimeter.

Against Houston, Tyler Zeller recorded his first DNP-CD (Did not play -- coaches decision) of the season which made sense considering Houston basically plays void of a traditional center.

Orlando, that’s a different story.

Serge Ibaka, Bismack Biyombo and Nikola Vucevic now coming off the bench form a physical triumvirate of big men that can cause lots of problems for a Celtics team that will look to attack the paint often.

When it comes to scoring in the restricted area, the Magic allow opponents to shoot 57.6 percent which ranks seventh in the league. They rank highly when it comes to defending mid-range shots (5-10th, 38.3 percent), corner 3's (6th, 34.5 percent) and above-the-break 3's (8th, 33.8 percent) as well.

And while they have had their issues offensively this season, their recent run of success has been in part aided by a much-improved offensive showing. In their last five games, they are shooting 48.5 percent from the field which ranks fifth in the NBA in that span. For the season, the Magic rank 28th while connecting on 42.6 percent of their shots.

Orlando’s improved shooting with a defense that’s stingy as ever, will make this a tough game for Boston to come away with a victory.

Just as the Magic seek to continue their successful ways, the Celtics come into this game with something to prove as well.

While the missed lay-ups by Al Horford and Isaiah Thomas in the final minute of Monday’s 107-106 loss certainly were factors in the game’s outcome, there were a series of miscommunications earlier in the quarter that fueled Houston’s late surge.

Following the game, Isaiah Thomas pointed out how he called out a play that Jonas Jerebko interpreted as another play the Celtics called.

The miscommunication led to a turnover and subsequent lay-up which in hindsight looms huge considering the margin of victory was just one point.

“The two play calls sound alike,” Thomas told reporters afterwards. “In the heat of battle, I have to do a better job of making sure everybody knows what play we’re running. He (Jerebko) handed the ball back to me when the play wasn’t to hand the ball back to me. That was one of the turnovers that was the key.

Thomas added, “It’s not his fault. As a group, as a point guard, I have to do a better job of letting my guys know what play we’re running. Those little things, especially on the road, those make you lose games. But that wasn’t the play that made us lose. I’m not putting this on Jonas at all.”

Indeed, this team’s success as well as their struggles are the collective efforts of all their core players, Thomas included.

And for them to get back on track, it won’t be one or two players that will make it happen.

It’ll be a team effort, the kind that will allow Boston to find success against different teams no matter how extremely different their styles of play may be.