By CBSNewYork Team

(CBSNewYork)- For the first time since 2013, Madison Square Garden will host New York Knicks playoff basketball. Tom Thibodeau’s squad finished the regular season 41-31 earning the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference and setting up a first round matchup in the NBA Playoffs with the Atlanta Hawks.

The excitement surrounding the playoff return is high. Tickets for Game 1 on Sunday start at a little over $200 per on both Stubhub and Vivid Seats. Part of the reason for that excitement, according to Turner Sports analyst and former Knicks guard Greg Anthony is the team plays a style of basketball reflective of the city itself.

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“It’s not just that they’re in the postseason–obviously they have had a terrific season–but it’s the type of team that they are. I think the city really identifies with this team. There’s a level of physicality, toughness and grit that really exemplifies New York City and this team has that,” Anthony said on a media call this week.

His fellow Turner analyst, Reggie Miller, agreed saying the team reminds him a bit of the ones that he used to face as a star in the 90s for the Indiana Pacers.

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“The character of this team is very much taking on the teams I used to play with Greg on. Very tough-minded, defensive-minded, get in your face. And that’s all an extension of coach Tom Thibodeau,” Miller said. “They had some bumpy patches early in the year but I think they found who they are they found their identity. And they rallied around their All-Star in Julius Randle.”

The question is, just how far can this team go? On paper, it seems clear that they’re a notch below the conference’s top three teams in Philly, Brooklyn and Milwaukee. Outside of Randle, there isn’t another player you’d say is among the Top 20-25 best in the league. And yet, the defense, physicality and toughness with which they play has Anthony thinking they could play a factor. Particularly in a season in which there has been plenty of uncertainty due to both injuries and the pandemic.

“Quite honestly, this is a year like last year, where I could see a team like the Knicks getting to the conference finals. I don’t say that lightly or with a bias. It’s just the nature of the sport right now because you’re not going to have the same kind of impact or hostile environment of playing true road games. Because of the uncertainty and inconsistencies with guys in and out of the lineup,” Anthony said. “All those things play a role in what happened last year with the Miami Heat. We could see a situation like that this year and the Knicks are the kind of team that could find themselves because of all the uncertainty and all the craziness, in the conference final.”

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A conference final appearance hasn’t been seen in the Garden in two decades. In order for a run like that to happen, the Knicks first have to dispatch the Hawks starting with Game 1 on Sunday.

CBSNewYork Team