It's hard to imagine things getting more grueling for Raymond Felton than they were in Game 1 of the Knicks-Celtics series.
Without point guard Pablo Prigioni in the lineup, Felton was forced to play 43 minutes Saturday in the Knicks' 85-78 win at Madison Square Garden.
The good news for Felton is that the Knicks are hopeful that Prigioni will be back next to him in the starting lineup for Game 2 Tuesday night.
And the bad news? If he is, Mike Woodson has decided to have Felton take over defensive duties on Paul Pierce, who remains the toughest cover on the Celtics.
The Knicks did not practice Sunday, but Woodson told reporters on a conference call that if Prigioni returns, he will stick defensive specialist Iman Shumpert on Jeff Green. He torched the Knicks for 26 points in Game 1, most of them while being guarded by rookie Chris Copeland. Woodson then would have Felton guard Pierce, who was Shumpert's man in Game 1.
"That's what we had envisioned coming into the series before Pablo got hurt," Woodson said.
After scoring 20 points in the first two quarters, Green scored only six in the second half after Woodson asked Carmelo Anthony to take over most of the defensive duties on him. Woodson, however, would like to free up Anthony from having to take on such a heavy defensive load.
Of course, this is all predicated on the return of Prigioni, who started the last 18 games of the regular season before he rolled his ankle Wednesday night in the final game against Atlanta. Prigioni is listed as day-to-day but is expected to play in Game 2.
"If he looks good by Tuesday, if he feels good, I'm going to play him," Woodson said. "I know what he brings. He brings high energy and he knows how to run a team, so we've got to wait for Tuesday to get here and see where we are with him."
The Knicks' defense was the big factor in Game 1. It held the Celtics to eight points in the fourth quarter, a Knicks playoff record for any quarter, and without a field goal in the final 4:32. Felton, never anyone's idea of a defensive specialist, did an excellent job of guarding Pierce during that stretch.
Felton's scoring line -- 13 points and 5-for-13 shooting -- was far from extraordinary, but he seemed to be everywhere, driving to the basket, causing deflections and doing the things that don't show up in stat lines but do show up in postgame locker-room discussions.
"It was huge that he played 43 minutes," said J.R. Smith, who also is likely to draw some Pierce duty when he comes in off the bench. "We were all talking about it after the game. He was exhausted and I told him to rest up."