The series is between the teams, but there can be no doubt that much of the focus within will be on Carmelo Anthony.

For the Celtics to get past the New York Knicks in the Eastern Conference first-round playoff duel that is still one regular-season game away, they will have to deal with an All-Star having his brightest season.

So Kevin Garnett is correct when he says, “The Knicks-Celtics matchup is just going to be what it is. It’s always been traditional just because of the ties and the tradition.” But he knows Bill Russell and Willis Reed won’t be playing.

Garnett is well aware of who will be playing. Anthony is averaging 28.7 points (more than 10 beyond his nearest teammate) and 22.2 shots per game.

“You know Melo’s going to get a majority of the shots,” Garnett said before the C’s noon practice yesterday. “He’s going to obviously lead their team and will their team. Other guys are going to follow suit.”

The Celtics will take a group approach to defending Anthony, and coach Doc Rivers only wishes he could get a waiver from the NBA to put seven players on the floor. For certain, Jeff Green and Paul Pierce, who missed practice because of illness, will get the call beginning this weekend as the C’s try to keep fresh resistance on Anthony.