===NO. 2 NEW YORK KNICKS VS. NO. 7 BOSTON CELTICS===
Knicks Offense vs. Celtics Defense
The Knicks offense (ranked 4th overall with a PPP of .976) vs. the Celtics Defense (ranked 6th overall with a PPP of .906) will be a battle between two of the top 6 units in the league. The Celtics main deficiency defensively is their transition defense ranked 30th in the league (1.229 PPP). However, the Knicks are not the type of team that will be able to take advantage of this weak transition defense. They play at the slowest pace in the league using less than 10 possessions per game in transition. It is also interesting to note that the Celtics have gotten better defensively almost across the board since they lost Rajon Rondo to injury on January 27th. In fact, their Overall Points Per Possession (PPP) is .906 which ranked 6th best in the league this season (includes all games with and without Rondo), but it has dropped to .901 since the Rondo injury on January 27th.
The Knicks are a perimeter oriented team, which is illustrated by the percentage of shots that are jump shots, 60.8%. That the highest percentage of jump shots in the half court in the NBA. The Knicks are able to get .98 PPP off their jump shots in the half court, which is good for 4th best in the league. The Celtics defend the jump shot better than anyone in the NBA, only allowing .841 PPP from jump shots.
Celtics Offense vs. Knicks Defense
At the other end of the court the match-up is between the 12th ranked Celtics offense (.939 PPP) and the 21st ranked Knicks defense (.941 PPP). Much like their defense, the Celtics offense has gotten better since Rondo went down in late January, but it was not an across the board improvement. They have gotten better in Overall offense, Half Court offense, Spot Ups, Isolations, and Post-Ups, but they have not been as efficient in Transition or in P&R Ball Handler situations. One area that will be interesting to watch is Post-Ups where the Celtics are the 4th most efficient team in the league (.892 PPP) and the Knicks are the league's best Post –Up defense (.752 PPP).
The Celtics primarily utilize 3 players in their Post offense, Kevin Garnett (44.4%Time, Pierce 19.1%Time, Jeff Green 18.3%Time). Garnett and Pierce are both effective in the post scoring at least 1 point 47.1% and 49.3% respectively. This could be a matchup of strengths as Garnett could see a lot of Tyson Chandler, who only allows people to score at least 1 point 32.2% of the time. Likewise, Pierce can expect to be posting often against Carmelo Anthony who only allows his opponents to score 32.1% when he is guarding in the post.
Matchup to Watch: Carmelo Anthony vs. Paul Pierce
New York went 3-1 vs. Boston in the regular season, but Boston did a very good job of making Carmelo Anthony work for his points. Anthony was very efficient all year, ranking in the 88th percentile and scoring 1.021 PPP, but against Boston that PPP dropped to .815. Carmelo, who is led the league in scoring at 28.7 ppg, scored just 25.2 ppg against Boston while taking almost 26 field goal attempts/game. On the other side, Paul Pierce went in the other direction as his PPP went from .947 (69th percentile) in the regular season to 1.024 in the match-ups with the Knicks. Not surprisingly, with his increased efficiency Pierce's points per game went from 18.6 in the regular season to 21.2 ppg against the Knicks, while taking almost the same amount of shots per game.