5-on-5: Playoff positioning
Henry Abbott, TrueHoop: The 76ers. These two teams have both been singing the tired hymn that it can take time for a roster to get it. Maybe the 76ers -- who recently beat the Spurs, Celtics and Bulls -- did get it and are now really the team that Doug Collins has been building. For the Knicks, on the other hand, two big names and one big promise to play better aren't nearly enough to scare the Celtics.
Brian Robb, Celtics Hub: The 76ers. Athletic teams have given Boston fits for the past couple of years, and this squad certainly fits the bill. With a balanced starting lineup, a top-10 defense and an explosive bench, the Sixers have the pieces to hang with Boston or Miami in the first round, as long as Lou Williams recovers from his hamstring injury in time.
Michael Schwartz, Valley of the Suns: The Knicks, because they are such a wild card. Their defense is bad enough for them to get swept, but they feature a pair of stars good enough to take over a series on their own. Plus, 3-point shooting increases the variability in a team's performance, and only Orlando takes more 3s than New York.
Darius Soriano, Forum Blue & Gold: The Knicks. With the Celtics' reliance on small lineups, the Knicks' lack of size isn't as big a concern. If the Knicks rely less on isolation and more on their pick-and-roll sets, they can collapse the Celtics' defense to get Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire the ball in space where they excel. Plus, I'm not sold on an inexperienced 76ers team testing the Celtics.
Jared Wade, 8 Points, 9 Seconds: The Sixers. The Knicks are different, but they haven't changed. If that makes sense. They will be fine long-term, but a few big Carmelo games aren't enough to convince me that their defense -- the root cause of that previous tailspin -- has been fixed.