Boston Celtics (49-19, 20-13 away) @ New York Knicks (35-34, 19-14 home)
Time: 7:30 PM EST, March 21st, 2011
Venue: Madison Square Garden
Officials: Monty McCutchen, Eric Lewis, Sean Wright
The Line: The Celtics are 2-0 against the Knicks in the "Amar'e Era", but
have not yet faced the Billups/Melo/Amar'e 3-Headed monster.
GAME THREAD | CHAT ROOM
The past week has been a roller-coaster ride, amirite? The Celtics have gone 3-2 over their last 5 games, and the outcomes (whether losses or wins) have been more extreme than a bag full of shredded lettuce with your choice of flavored mayonnaise.
It all started with a franchise record setting win against Milwaukee, where Boston just absolutely embarrassed the Bucks, despite the presence of defensive leader and team Australian Andrew Bogut (the Celtics had faced the Bucks a week previous, and had won a tight one without Bogut in the game..some thought Bogut's presence might have changed that outcome). But, the very next night, the Celtics followed up that decisive win in Milwaukee by dropping only the second game in four years to the New Jersey Nets, viciously forcing Celtics fans to relive one of the worst losses of the KG-era.
In typical bi-polar fashion, the Celtics followed up that Nets loss with another blowout win, taking it to the Pacers from the first quarter on, netting a 92-80 win that wasn't as close as the score looked. Predictably, they followed that up with a blowout loss to the Rockets. The final icing on the cake came on Saturday night, where the Celtics broke a 5 game losing streak of dropping games on the second night of a back to back by beating the New Orleans Hornets in a nail-biter.
The Knicks have not been having much better luck though either. After impressive wins against the Heat and Hornets, Hawks and Jazz, the Knicks have gone 1-5 over their last six games, to bring their total record 'avec-Carmelo' to a disappointing 7-8. This should not be any surprise however, as 'even the best fall down sometimes' (no, its not the music video) and much like Boston, New York is busy frantically preparing for a playoff run while also trying to integrate key new pieces of their lineup on the fly, without a training camp or the benefit of early season growing pains to help cohesion.
Both teams tonight though are hungry to break recent self-destructive patterns. The Celtics clinched the Atlantic division yesterday with New York's loss to Milwaukee, but they still need to establish some sort of consistent baseline of excellence with their newest guys in the lineup before the playoffs, and it would be ideal if they managed to do that while home court advantage was still theirs for the taking (they're currently tied for first place in the East with the Bulls).
The Knicks on the other hand, while probably not able to significantly improve their seeding before the end of the season (the best they can probably do is move beyond Philadelphia, who they are only a half game back on right now, and were ahead of until recently), they will need to figure out a way to bring some stability to their game, and really get some momentum heading into a probable playoff match-up with either Boston, Miami, or Chicago. They've already beaten Miami twice in their last two meetings, and have beaten Chicago in the only two times they've seen them this season, but in two meetings so far against Bpston, New York has lost twice. A win tonight would not only be a step in the right direction for the "Melo-legacy", but it would also be a significant statement against a possible playoff opponent (Boston could play New York if Boston slips to the second seed and New York fails to pass Philadelphia for the 5th seed).
Probable starting lineups, injury updates, team connections, and basically the only factual evidence you'll see in this post delivered courtesy of the most awesome person ever, author and contributor, FLCeltsFan
Rajon Rondo vs Chauncey Billups
Ray Allen vs Landry Fields
Paul Pierce vs Carmelo Anthony
Kevin Garnett vs Amar'e Stoudamire
Nenad Krstic vs Jared Jeffries
Boston Bench Mob
Jermaine O'Neal (knee) out
Shaquille O'Neal (Achilles) out
Von Wafer (calf) out
Roger Mason Jr
Doc Rivers played for the Knicks from 1992‐95
Bill Walker was a member of the Celtics from 2008‐10
Amar’e Stoudemire and Shaquille O’Neal were teammates in Phoenix from 2008‐09
Shaquille O’Neal played for Mike D’Antoni from the end of the 2007‐08 season and all of the 2008‐09 season in Phoenix
Toney Douglas and Von Wafer both attended Florida State University
Chauncey Billups was drafted by the Celtics and played for them in the 1997‐98 season
Chauncey Billups played with Celtics Assistant Coach Roy Rogers in Boston and Toronto during the 1997‐98 season
Shelden Williams played for the Celtics during the 2009‐10 season
Toney Douglas and Von Wafer both attended Florida State University
Jared Jeffries and Celtics Assistant Coach Lawrence Frank both attended Indiana Universtiy
Shawne Williams and Troy Murphy were teammates in Indiana from 2006‐08.
Anthony Carter and Kevin Garnett were teammates in Minnesota from 2004‐2006..
Anthony Carter and Von Wafer were teammates in Denver during the 2007‐08 season.
Match-up Of The Game: Paul Pierce V Carmelo Anthony
I've always enjoyed watching Carmelo Anthony play..partly because he went to Syracuse, but also partly because he's always reminded me of Paul Pierce. Both players have that devastating mid-range pull-up shot after a deceptively quick first step. Both players are substantially stronger than your average small forwards, which means that they can not only finesse you, they can body you up to get to the paint. Both players wear headbands a lot. The similarities are eerie. ESPN actually compares the two players in a recent (mediocre) piece. (Link- Insider Only)
And, as you'd expect..in the 13 total times a Paul Pierce-led team played a Carmelo Anthony-led team, the two guys' box scores are pretty similar. They've effectively split the match-ups evenly (Pierce and the Celtics have gone 7-6), both players playing 36 minutes, both players averaging roughly the same number of points, field goals attempted, rebounds, assists, etc...(Pierce is averaging 25.7 points per contest to Carmelo's 24.1).
Even in recent years, where you'd expect a significant drop off in these match-ups from Pierce due to playing on a more balanced offensive team, Carmelo and Pierce have played pretty evenly over the last few years (aside from a 5pt, 2-10 stinker from Pierce in 2010).
Tonight, I expect it to be no different. Pierce has shot 20% from the field or worse in 3 of the last 4 games, and hasn't shot more than 14 field goal attempts in a single game in nearly a month, but I expect Pierce and Carmelo to both score right around 22 points, with Pierce shooting slightly less but a better %. Carmelo will come in tonight with something to prove, but look for the captain to take umbrage to someone wanting to make an example out of him, and responding correctly.
Three Keys To The Game For The Good Guys:
1) Ray Allen just felt like runnnnning.: Landry Fields is one of my favorite players in the Eastern Conference, and easily my favorite rookie. I like the guy because he's far out-distancing expectations of his draft position (39th overall), he's making the most of what many would consider limited athleticism for a NBA player, and he's just a likeable guy. Because of his size, his effort levels (through the roof) and his basketball IQ (high), he's an adequate defender and great team player on offense. But, there is one thing Landry Fields cannot do; Defend Ray Allen. Landry Fields is 6'7 and built more like a forward than the guard position he commonly plays, and while he does an okay job against 9/10 guys in the NBA, he cannot guard 6'7 Ray Allen, who is built like a muscular piece of paper that never gets tired and eats like an ovo-lacto vegan (with all the corresponding superpowers). He'll put Fields through a gauntlet of picks, and when Fields manages to finally catch-up to him, Ray Allen will reward him by showing him the fastest, deadliest jumper in the NBA.
2) Kevin Garnett Says Nothing Is Easy: Garnett's play hasn't been what I'd call spectacular lately either. He is still clearly struggling to find defensive chemistry with Nenad Krstic, and the Celtics' interior defense has suffered because of it. Well, tonight the task just got harder. While many power forwards are capable of scoring 20, even 30 points in a given night, nobody, excepting maybe Dirk Nowitzki, is quite as potent as Amar'e Stoudemire with the ball in his hands. Stoudemire almost won the game from beyond the three point line against the Celtics earlier this season, and he can score from just about anywhere inside that line at will. Garnett will not only have to make sure that Stoudemire doesn't take over the game, he has also got to help correctly to make sure that any penetration from Carmelo or Billups gets seen to appropriately. Nobody is saying the job is easy, but if it was easy...Amar'e Stoudemire would play defense too.
3) Listen to Clyde.: I don't care if he's going to be on the opposing teams' broadcast, and I don't care if you record Celtics games just to to ensure that you can listen to Tommy Heinsohn deride officials as you fall into blissful angst-ridden slumber. Walt 'Clyde' Frazier is a treat. He's like a cooler version of Bill Walton. He's as objective as you're going to get from a team-dedicated color analyst, and he's got a style that rivals Craig Sager. Listen to Clyde.