Celtics facing Knicks in first round of playoffs
Doc Rivers got his wish — the Celtics avoided a first-round playoff matchup against the Miami Heat.
Instead, Boston will open the postseason against another bitter rival: New York.
The Knicks clinched the Eastern Conference’s second seed with their win Sunday against Indiana, and their playoff series with the seventh-seeded Celtics is expected to start Saturday with Game 1 at Madison Square Garden in New York.
The seven-game series will stay in New York for Game 2, then shift to TD Garden for the next two games.
The Knicks have won 15 of their last 16 games and won the season series against the Celtics, 3-1, for the first time since 2003-04.
“They’ve been playing very well,” Celtics forward Jeff Green said about the Knicks after Boston won in Orlando Saturday night, 120-88. “They’re knocking down the three.”
The most made 3-pointers against the Celtics this season is 14, which the Knicks did twice.
“It’s tough to defend them,” Green said. “We’ve got to make sure we’re all on one page and . . . and just run them off the 3-point line.”
The Celtics swept the Knicks (4-0) in the first round in 2011, the last time these teams met in the playoffs.
The only current Knicks who played in that series are Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire — and Stoudemire (knee) could miss this year’s series.
The only knock on Green’s recent scoring resurgence is that most of his big numbers came when Kevin Garnett was sidelined, producing a question mark as to whether Green could do the same with Garnett or if he’d lose his aggression and defer.
This question only received ammunition when Green’s scoring dipped after Garnett recently returned from an eight-game absence with inflammation in his left ankle.
Then Garnett was out again, against Miami in Friday night’s 109-101 loss, and Green had a game-high 25 points, rekindling the discussion further.
But Saturday night Green and Garnett played together and Green scored 17 points in 37 minutes, the most the forward has scored in a game with Garnett since March 13 vs. Toronto, when Green had 20.
Granted Orlando is, as Jason Terry put it, “terrible.” But even so, Green’s performance quieted concerns that he and Garnett can’t play in concert, a looming issue with Green in the starting lineup and the playoffs set to start.
On nights when Green is playing alongside Garnett and even Paul Pierce, Garnett said that’s when Green has “opportunities for us to give him opportunities — and then that’s the time he should spot up and take shots that are given to him.
“He doesn’t necessarily have to take his man one-on-one. Obviously we have plays for him; when his play is called, that’s a whole other story.
But when Pierce and Garnett are playing, Garnett said the message to Green is, “Let us make it easy for you.”
Garnett added, “There’s a lot of times when I feel that he does overwork or does things that he doesn’t necessarily have to, but the fact that he’s aggressive is a great sign for us. I’m just going to continue to encourage him to be this way.”
Pierce is encouraged by Green’s recent scoring binges.
“He’s going to be huge for us as that third scorer and he has to be a third consistent scorer,” Pierce said. “Everybody already knows what me and Kevin bring; he’s going to have to be that guy now. He’s growing into that role in the second half of the season now.”
When asked how his aggression changes when Garnett is on the court, Green said, “Nothing changes. I’m going to continue to do me, continue to go out there and play hard, continue to go out there and look for my shot.”
Baxter Holmes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org