Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett Relishing Chance to Compete With Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire in NBA Playoffs The New York Knicks are only a No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference, they won only 42 games, and this is only their second playoff appearance in the last decade.

But lest you forget, they still have two of the best players in the world on their side.

Whether the other 10 guys on their roster are NBA veterans or clown college dropouts, Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire alone can give a team a chance to win a playoff series. They've proven that before.

Carmelo was drafted in 2003 and has led his team to the postseason every single year since. In 2009, he led the Nuggets and challenged the Lakers to six games in the Western Conference finals. Amare has played 10 playoff series in eight seasons – he's won five and lost five. Last spring, he too faced L.A. in the West finals.

The Knicks' two biggest stars are now due for a clash with the Celtics' two biggest. This is going to be an exciting couple of weeks.

"I look forward to it, truthfully," Boston's Paul Pierce said of playing against 'Melo. "I always look for a challenge. I'm happy for the fact that I get to play one of the best players in the game, in a playoff series against him. I feel like in this era, I've played with pretty much all the top wing men at my position. This will be another very good matchup."

True. Pierce has taken on LeBron James in a playoff series twice, and Kobe Bryant twice. He's clashed with Joe Johnson, Rip Hamilton and Vince Carter. Back in the old days, he had a few epic battles with Reggie Miller's Pacers.

But Carmelo is a different cat. He's physically overpowering for a wing player — at a muscle-bound 6-foot-8 – he also brings the speed, quickness and finishing ability to outplay anyone.

Pierce has taken on Anthony many times before. They've had a few unforgettable duels — there were a pair of Celtics-Nuggets clashes in 2006 where both guys put up 35-plus. But in the postseason, things will be different. In a slowed-down, possession-to-possession basketball game, the Celtics' captain will emphasize smart defense over massive point totals.

"I'm really going to be focusing in on the defensive end of the floor," he said. "Nobody wants to get embarrassed. I have a lot of pride in my game, but at the same time, offensively I want to make him work — run him off screens. It's going to be both ends of the court, just making him work the whole series."

Kevin Garnett likewise has a big matchup ahead of him. Stoudemire ranked sixth in the NBA this season with 25.3 points per game, and being six years younger than KG, he still has the athletic ability to show him up.

"What makes Amare so good is that he's explosive," Garnett said. "He's very aggressive. He can score in a lot of different ways. They run a lot of different sets for him. Sometimes when you have physical players, you have players who initiate offense. He's one of those. Every time he has the ball, he's what we call 'alive.' He's a force to be reckoned with."

Garnett and Stoudemire have been compared to each other from time to time — both freakishly long power forwards, both made the leap into the NBA out of high school, both began their careers out West before moving into big East Coast markets.

But KG has too much respect for Stoudemire to equate the two. He sees what makes the Knicks' superstar unique.

"Amare's game is a lot different from mine," Garnett said. "He's a lot more explosive. I think as he's evolved in this league, he's blossomed into other avenues of the game. Professionally, I think he was a lot better than me coming into the league — he just had so many gifts. I've never compared his game to my game."

Back in the day, they were two young kids just trying to prove themselves. Now they're superstar players looking to lead veteran teams to the promised land.