History can teach us a lot of things, especially when it comes to sports. Some teams just match up well with others, leading to a dominant string of victories in a particular match-up. Think the Patriots against the Bills (Pats are 22-2 against Buffalo since 2001).
Other match-ups are extremely close, even if the teams aren't so close in the standings, the two styles of play seem to even out - and neither team gets the edge. Think Bruins and Canadiens of recent years (Bruins are 19-15 in the match-up against Montreal since 2008. 22 of the 34 games have been decided by one goal).
Tonight when the Celtics invade Madison Square Garden, we will be looking at a match-up that in recent years has been the former - an absolutely one-sided rivalry. The Celtics have been the pigeon to the Knicks statue so to speak.
Since the 2001-02 season began (11 seasons), the Celtics are 38-10 against the Knicks. The C's have won the season series nine times, tied the series once (last year), and lost the series once (2003-04). They have swept the Knicks four different times in the regular season (2001-02, 2002-03, 2007-08, and 2010-11), and once more in the playoffs (2011 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals).
Perhaps the most impressive stat of all - the Celtics are 18-6 since 2001 in Madison Square Garden. They've made the mecca of basketball their proverbial bitch for over a decade.
Impressive stuff all of it. But when tip-off tonight comes around, it's basically meaningless.
Why? Simple, the Knicks have changed. The Knicks team that the C's dominated with such ease has morphed into one of the better teams in the league. Even going back just a year and a half to that fateful playoff sweep that the Celtics pulled off, and it's clear the metamorphosis that the Knickerbockers have undergone. Of the twelve Knicks that dressed in Game 4 of that series, just two remain - Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire. And even those two guys have changed drastically, Melo for the better (more efficient and more effort on defense) and Amare for the worse (too many injuries have sapped his explosiveness).
In that Game 4 loss loss the Knicks gave a combined 153 minutes to the pu-pu platter of Shawne Williams - currently out of the NBA, Anthony Carter - retired, Toney Douglas - having a solid season for the Rockets, Bill Walker - out of the NBA, Landry Fields - giving the Raptors 3.5 PPG, Ronny Turiaf - giving the Clippers 2.2 PPG, and Jared Jeffries - collecting DNP-CD's for the Blazers.
Tonight those minutes will be going to the likes of Tyson Chandler, J.R. Smith, Jason Kidd, Ronnie Brewer, Steve Novak and Marcus Camby. Upgrades across the board.
The other key change for the Knicks has been Mike Woodson patrolling the sidelines. Woodson has got the Knicks playing extremely efficient basketball on offense, and well enough on defense. Coming into tonight's game the Knicks rank 2nd in the NBA in points per possession (link) (1.096) and 16th in PPP allowed (1.029). That combination has allowed New York to catapult to the top of the Atlantic Division, seven games ahead of the Celtics.
So while the Celtics past dominance is nice, if they are going to continue it, it's going to take one hell of an effort. Especially without Rondo, who was apparently just suspended one game for bumping an official in Atlanta. Great.
Follow Mike on twitter - Mike_Dyer13 Mike Dyer 1/07/2013 04:46:00 PM Tweet