Over the past few years, each and every Celtics/Knicks battle has been entertaining. Whether it results in a 45-point victory or a tightly contested matchup, one thing is promised - chippiness. Paul Pierce and Quentin Richardson consistently get into a verbal war of their own, and the rest have followed suit. In the last contest, played on November 18, three players and a coach (Mike D'Antoni) were hit with technicals in a 110-101 Boston win.
One of New York's biggest instigators, however, will not be in the building. No, I'm not talking about Stephon Marbury (who may or may not pay thousands of dollars to sit courtside). I'm talking about Zach "Z-Bo" Randolph, who was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers last month in exchange for Tim Thomas and Cuttino Mobley, who has put an end to his NBA career on account of health.
On the very same day, the Knicks sent high-scoring guard Jamal Crawford - who dropped 50 on Charlotte last night - to Golden State for Al Harrington. On paper, Crawford is far sexier than Harrington has ever been, but the other Big Al has been playing terrific basketball since being acquired by New York. In 13 games with the Knicks thus far, Harrington has held averages of 23.6 points and 7.2 rebounds per game, while burying just under three triples each night.
Nothing has changed on the Stephon Marbury front, but this basketball team is very different from the last time we saw them. To replace Crawford in the starting lineup, D'Antoni has chosen to go with breakout midget Nate Robinson, who is averaging well-rounded 16-4-4 numbers. As a starter in five of his 18 games played this season, Robinson has put up 18 PPG on an efficient 47% clip, to go along with 5.2 rebounds and 3.6 assists.
A new roster, a new style, a new attitude, and a new long-term financial outlook. The Knicks are no longer a team to laugh at when you see "NYK" on the schedule. They can and will put forth a valiant effort, and they are not to be slept on.
Update: Big Baby was in a car accident prior to the game. He has a concussion and whiplash and is in the hospital. Sounds like he'll be ok thankfully.
PG SG SF PF C
PPG: Al Harrington (23.6)
RPG: David Lee (10.7)
APG: Chris Duhon (8.5)
SPG: Nate Robinson (1.6)
BPG: Wilson Chandler (0.9)
Knicks X-Factor: Rebound
Unless New York is aggressive on the boards, Boston is not going to allow Mike D'Antoni to dictate the pace of this game. Controlling the defensive glass is essential for a running team, and with a defense like Boston's, it is imperative that the Knicks put forth an effort to get as many easy opportunities as possible. Perhaps the most effective way to do that is to establish yourself on the offensive glass for as many second-chance buckets as possible.
Statistically, the Knicks surprisingly edge out Boston with by 0.09 RPG. That differential is hardly intimidating, but with guys like David Lee, Wilson Chandler, and company, the Knicks have some active bodies in the paint. Against the Celtics, they've got to use them.
PG SG SF PF C
PPG: Ray Allen (18.8)
RPG: Kevin Garnett (9.2)
APG: Rajon Rondo (7.6)
SPG: Rajon Rondo (2.4)
BPG: Kendrick Perkins (1.8)
Celtics X-Factor: Don't Lose Focus
It's easy for a 25-2 team to lose focus, and almost lose a sense of competition, in the midst of a 17-game winning streak. Heck, you could argue that that is the very factor that took Detroit down on multiple occasions over the past few years. It's easy to accidentally drop one against a far inferior team when you're rolling through each and every opponent without much of a problem.
However, this Boston Celtics team is not your typical bunch. Should we worry about this team losing/maintaining focus? Absolutely not. Whether they are down by double-digits at home to the Raptors or trailing by 24 points on the road in the NBA Finals, this team constantly finds a way to win. Sometimes it's difficult to figure out how, but they get the job done. Regardless, the "focus factor" needs to be brought up.
Don't slow down, green.
|2008 - Chris Duhon
|2008 - Rajon Rondo
Danilo Gallinari (sore lower back - out)
Jared Jeffries (sore left leg muscles - doubtful)
Eddy Curry (sore knee - out)
Stephon Marbury (seeking tickets to game - attendance is questionable)
Keys to Victory
- Attack Basket
- Control the Glass
- Transition Defense