1988 NBA Playoffs: Celtics Hope to Make Short Work of Knicks


It was only Tuesday, so there was no need for Artis Gilmore to pretend he was Patrick Ewing, or Reggie Lewis to make like Mark Jackson.

The Celtics don't care much for that kind of workout, anyway. While New York undoubtedly spent yesterday running wind sprints and suffering through full-court defensive slides, Boston went about the business of playing basketball. There will be no gimmicks, no special defenses when the team opens its postseason Friday against the Knicks in a best-of-five first-round series.

The Celtics will be expected to win this series handily, and the best possible way to go about that is to play their brand of team basketball and prevent New York from building momentum toward a lengthy battle.

"New York's intensity is going to be at the highest level in the world," said coach K.C. Jones. "They are coming in enthusiastic with nothing to lose. They'll be scrambling for loose balls and taking it to us. We have to match that from the start."

In other words, nip those Christmas-in-April miracles in the bud. Shut the door early and leave the welcome mat in the closet.

"The Knicks can look as good as any team in the league on a particular day, and then they can look really bad," said Danny Ainge. "That's why they finished where they did. They've played some great games against us this year where they got confidence as the game went along. That's what we've got to stop them from doing."

Last Nov. 18, New York trooped into Boston Garden figuring to have little chance of marching out with a W. Then the Celtics stumbled through a freakish second quarter without scoring a field goal, and suddenly the Knicks saw a chance to win the game. Boston prevailed in double overtime (111-109), but the visitors had proved to themselves they could play with the Celtics, and stole a 106-98 win less than two months later (Jan. 9) at Madison Square Garden. Although the guys in green captured the final meeting of the regular season March 26, the Knicks nearly pulled one out in Hartford (they lost, 95-93).

"There's nothing like confidence," said Robert Parish, "and they have gotten a taste of it by winning consistently."

Winning does not come easily for a team without many true scorers. Thus, defense has become its trademark, i.e. a bothersome trapping defense, not unlike what coach Rick Pitino implemented at Providence College.

The difference, of course, is players of NBA caliber are more adept at exposing the weaknesses.

"Their style is definitely unique," said Ainge. "They take a lot of gambles, lots of risks. We have to be patient. If they go to the trap, we should be able to destroy that trap.

"What they want to do in that situation is rush the shot, or take the first one that's available. We have to take our time and move the ball."

"I think the key is to come out and pressure them," said Larry Bird. "They turn the ball over, too."

Indeed, mistakes tend to hurt the experienced team less than the younger guys, who haven't made as many -- or recovered from as many.

"This team more than any other I've been on knows naturally how to relax," said Gilmore, whose playoff experience has been with San Antonio and Chicago. "They know what it takes to be on top of their game. Some teams say they are ready to play, but you can't just say it, you've got to do what it takes.

"New York is a young, talented team that is very capable of winning. But hopefully during the course of the game, they will make mistakes and we'll capitalize on them. That's the difference between an experienced team and a young team."

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