Knicks great’s bold playoff take doesn’t age well after Game 5 of the NBA Finals

Apr 13, 2014; New York, NY, USA;  New York Knicks guard Raymond Felton (2) brings the ball up court during the second half against the Chicago Bulls at Madison Square Garden. New York Knicks defeat the Chicago Bulls 100-89. Mandatory Credit: Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

Raymond Felton knows his basketball. It translated in his play on the NBA floor, especially in his days with the New York Knicks. That doesn’t absolve him from a recent bold take that did not age as well as his game.

Raymond Felton thinks the Knicks would’ve beaten the Celtics

Apr 11, 2024; Boston, Massachusetts, USA;  New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson (11) controls the ball while Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown (7) defends during the first half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Felton recently came out and declared that, had the Knicks run into the now-NBA champion Boston Celtics in the 2024 Eastern Conference Finals at full strength, they would have been the ones competing against the Dallas Mavericks for the title (h/t Geoff Magliocchetti of Fan Nation’s All Knicks):

“Man, they may beat (Boston) period. It may not even go 7,” Felton theorized (h/t Knicks Muse). “You’ve got to think about it. (OG) Anunoby was out, (Bojan) Bogdanovic was out, (Julius) Randle out, Mitchell Robinson out. You talking about four dudes that could really start.”

Felton’s prediction through the lens of what transpired in 2023-24

Feb 24, 2024; New York, New York, USA; Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) drives to the basket against New York Knicks forward Precious Achiuwa (5) and center Isaiah Hartenstein (55) and guard Donte DiVincenzo (0) during the first quarter at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

They say styles make fights in combat sports. The same applies in the NBA, but to a much lesser extent. The Knicks would have posed a threat to the Celtics and bothered them with their exceptional defense. The Knicks were also rolling just before getting bounced by the Indiana Pacers in Game 7 of the East Semifinals. Jalen Brunson was scoring better than any other playoff scorers and his supporting cast was chipping in effectively.

However, the facts remain the facts. The Celtics went 4-1 against the Knicks in their season series. Boston won three of those games by double-digits. They also shot 50.6 percent or better from the field in the same amount of contests, and the one win where they didn’t see them connect on 48.1 percent of their looks. This all came while the Celtics were outrebounded for much of the season series.

On top of that, the work that Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla did to contain two of the most gifted scorers ever in Mavericks stars Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving in the Finals was exemplary. Boston proved that their dynamic duo of Finals MVP Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum could win a ring together, giving them an even greater benefit of the doubt over New York in retrospect of Felton’s comments.

Knicks at full strength could have made an ECF against the Celtics interesting

New York Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau high fives New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (30) with guard Donte DiVincenzo (0) and forward OG Anunoby (8) and guard Jalen Brunson (11) during the first quarter against the Washington Wizards at Madison Square Garden
Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

That’s not to say that the Knicks would not have had a chance at winning the ECF over the Celtics had they matched up. At the end of the day though, Randle’s absence left 24 PPG on the table. Robinson’s league-leading 4.6 offensive rebounds a night would’ve given New York extra opportunities to score. Not to mention the invaluable impact Anunoby and Bogdanovic would have had spacing the floor and making plays.

Ultimately, things shook out the way they were meant to, but New York will have their chance to try and dethrone the Celtics in 2024-25. There’s been a war of words between players on the Knicks and Heat. Should the Celtics feel like exercising their bragging rights this summer, they could amp up their rivalry with both teams, making next year’s competition at the top of the East an intriguing one.

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