Every weekday throughout the season, ESPNNewYork.com will tackle a burning question about the Knicks in our "Opening Tip" segment.
Today's Burning Question: Can the Knicks close out the series on Wednesday?
Here are two key stats for you: 31-10 and five.
The first is the Knicks' record at the Garden, and the second is how many times they went through a stretch where they lost at least back-to-back games during the season.
So things are looking up for the Knicks with Game 5 approaching on Wednesday.
A big reason for the Knicks' ability to bounce back is the unique brand of veteran talent they have surrounding their star scorers. While most teams have several seasoned players, the Knicks -- who have Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni in the backcourt, and Kenyon Martin and Tyson Chandler in the frontcourt -- all bring a special mixture of smarts, a defensive focus and old-school toughness that is lacking in today's game.
They have a way of being in the right place at the right time on the court, and taking no mercy on the defensive end. They claw, they scratch and they usually get the better of who they're guarding. Relentlessness defines them.
In addition, their rugged style of play has rubbed off on the younger fellas, which was led to defensive cohesion like a well-tuned orchestra. In the series, the Knicks have 44 steals; the Celtics have only 21.
A boost for the Knicks is that the experienced vets are healthy with the playoffs underway, and they're showing flashes of their former selves.
The Celtics have three players who represent those qualities -- Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry -- but the Knicks are deeper in that regard. And they have Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith, who will be returning for Game 5 after serving a one-suspension on Sunday. Both stars are playing the best basketball of their careers, while Celtics All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo being sidelined has weakened the play of Pierce and Garnett.
True, the Celtics made it a game on Sunday, but they let a 20-point lead slip away in the third quarter. They were also down 0-3 in the series at that point.
The Knicks have simply had more juice than the Celtics, especially offensively with their smaller-ball lineups featuring Anthony at power forward. While the Knicks had some trouble defensively with the mismatches on Sunday, the Celtics have not been able to maintain 48 minutes of high points production with their bigger lineups. On the flip side, the Knicks are excelling on both ends of the floor more consistently.
Melo might not have gotten his "dream come true" -- which he referred to as his first playoff sweep whenever that happens -- but against an opponent he's had a personal score to settle with, winning the series in five games ain't too shabby.
How confident are you that the Knicks will win Game 5 at the Garden? Leave us your comments below.
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