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Sports

April 22, 2013

Now Knicks have veterans, and a lead on Celtics

NEW YORK — Nobody is laughing quite as much at the Knicks’ roster right now.

Doc Rivers never did.

New York’s strategy of loading up on older players was risky and frequently mocked, but not by people who believe veterans make a difference in the postseason.

“I thought it was a very good strategy actually, just because of now,” Rivers said.

Rivers’ Boston Celtics have long been not only one of the best teams in the NBA but also one of the oldest. Now, they look at a Knicks team that has more old guys. And that experience paid off down the stretch Saturday, helping New York pull out an 85-78 victory in the opener of their playoff series.

Game 2 is tomorrow, when the Knicks will again count on their veterans to try for a 2-0 lead.

A roster so old that for most of the season it included two players who were alive when the Knicks won their last title 40 years ago has given coach Mike Woodson just what he wanted: defense, leadership and an Atlantic Division title.

“I couldn’t be more pleased as a coach based on the guys we have fielded,” Woodson said on a conference call. “Only time will tell. We’ve got to just continue our journey and take it one game at a time and see where we go with it.”

Rivers noted before the series how strange it was for the Celtics to be facing a team with players older than they have. Boston is largely young beyond Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry, while Woodson can go to his bench and grab one player older than the last.

Jason Kidd, who turned 40 in March, played key minutes Saturday. Even though 40-year-old Kurt Thomas and 38-year-old Rasheed Wallace are no longer around after season-ending foot injuries, 35-year-old Kenyon Martin is there in a key backup role, and Marcus Camby, 39, waits if the Knicks need him.

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