(Long Island, N.Y.) The 2012-13 NBA playoffs have yet to begin, but the matchup is all but set. Yes, the New York Knicks have to get by two other teams before reaching the Eastern Conference Finals and if things play out the way they should, the Miami Heat will be there waiting for them.
By defeating the Indiana Pacers 90-80 at home, the Knicks clinched the number two seed in the conference, which was the best that they can do with Miami wrapping up the top spot a while ago. It was the team’s 15th win in their last 16 games.
“We have to get some healthy bodies back,” said Knicks head coach Mike Woodson regarding the playoffs. “We’ll see who’s healthy and who can be in the rotation once we start practicing on Thursday (for the playoffs).”
It has been a long season for the Knicks (53-27) and a good portion of their roster has missed time due to various injuries. It is imperative that some of the main cogs (Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler head that list) are ready to go. Currently, Anthony is the league’s leading scorer with 28.7 points per game and has been on fire, even while nursing a sore shoulder.
Chandler (neck) is expected to be set, as well as two power forwards who have been effective when able to stay on the court – Kenyon Martin (ankle) and Rasheed Wallace (foot).
They will face a familiar foe – the Boston Celtics – in the first round of the postseason and should have no problem with that opponent. “It didn’t matter to me who we played,” added Woodson. “What was more important to me and for our franchise was to secure home court to start the playoffs. And we were able to secure the second round, as well.
“First things first,” Woodson continued. “We’re going to have to deal with Boston. They’re well coached. They’ve had their ups and downs with their injuries, as well. It’s going to be a good series.”
Without a doubt, there is an important aspect of the game that Woodson recognizes as being his top priority once the postseason tips off. “(In) playoff basketball, you’re going to have to defend,” he said. “You’re going to have some nights when it opens up for you offensively, you make a lot of shots, but it’s going to come down to defense, offensive possessions, milking clocks and getting the best high percentage shot that you can get.”
The 41-39 Celtics have clinched the seventh seed in the east and are led by Paul Pierce (18.7 ppg) and Kevin Garnett (14.8 ppg). This is a team on its last hurrah as a group and age and durability have certainly caught up with them after a few strong seasons.
When they last met two years ago in the first round, the Celtics swept the Knicks, four games to none. It will be a very different result this time around.