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Preview: Celtics-Knicks

04.06.10 at 10:42 am ET

The Celtics went 3-3 on their homestand and there was some good mixed with the continuation of a disturbing pattern.

First, the good. They registered an impressive win over Denver and beat the Cavs, no matter how hard it got in the fourth quarter.

And the bad. They have been absolutely terrible in the second half. Even in two of their wins the Celtics melted down in the fourth quarter, barely beating the Kings and Cleveland. They also collapsed in the second half against San Antonio and didn’t execute at the end of losses to Houston and Oklahoma City.

Paul Pierce called them learning experiences, but why should a veteran team at this stage of the season have to go through them? With six games left in the regular season we either know everything there is to know about the Celtics, or we know nothing at all, because based on their regular-season performance this is not a team that is capable of winning a championship.

CELTICS (48-28, 6-4 last 10)

Points Per Game: 99.1

Points Allowed: 95.1

Differential: +4.0 (9th)

Offensive Efficiency: 107.4 (15th)

Defensive Efficiency: 103.0 (2nd)

Pace: 91.8 (20th)

Likely Starters: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins

Injuries: None.

KNICKS (27-49, 4-6 last 10)

Points Per Game: 101.8

Points Allowed: 105.4

Differential: -3.6 (22nd)

Offensive Efficiency: 106.9 (18th)

Defensive Efficiency: 110.7 (24th)

Pace: 94.2 (6th)

Likely Starters: Sergio Rodriguez, Tracy McGrady, Bill Walker, Danilo Gallinari, David Lee

Injuries: Wilson Chandler (Groin), Eddy Curry (Calf, knee), McGrady (Knee, Questionable)

Key Matchup: Kendrick Perkins vs. David Lee

David Lee has made life miserable for Kendrick Perkins in their three prior meeting, scoring 79 points to go with 40 rebounds. Lee is faster than Perkins and is adept at stepping out at hitting a 20-footer and he is a fine finisher inside as well. This is basically Perk’s nightmare scenario, who would much rather bang away inside for position. Perkins was also battling knee tendinitis during two of these matchups and he moved much better against Cleveland. This will be a good test to see how well he has recovered.

The Celtics in a Paragraph: With six games left the Celtics are playing for two things: seeding and the development of a rotation. They have professed not to care about getting the third seed, which right now would mean a first-round matchup against a wounded Milwaukee team. On the latter point, Doc Rivers seems prepared to give Tony Allen every opportunity to become and 18-20 minute per game player, which would make him perhaps the team’s most important reserve.

The Knicks in a Paragraph: We have now had more than 20 games to see if Bill Walker can play and the results thus far have been positive for everyone’s favorite ex-Celtic (aside from Leon Powe). Walker is averaging about 11 points in 26 minutes, but it’s his shooting percentages that have really impressed. Walker is shooting 54 percent and 43 percent from 3, and you might remember the knock on him while he was here was his outside shot. Twenty games do not a career make, but it’s enough to get you another contract and allow you to try to have one.

Watch to Watch For: Say good-bye to the Knicks as you knew them. The next time these two teams play they will look much different. The Celtics will miss playing this dysfunctional collection of wayward gunners. They are 6-1 against the Mike D’Antoni Knicks, but the games this season have been fairly competitive. New York is also returning from a late-season west coast swing, which sets up nicely for the Celtics.

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