Boston Celtics (17-13) at New York Knicks (16-13)
Sunday, December 25, 2016
12:00 PM ET
Regular Season Game #31 – Road Game #19
TV: ESPN, CSNNE MSG
Radio: 98.5 Sports Hub, ESPN NY 98.7
Madison Square Garden
Referees: Zach Zarba, Kane Fitzgerald, Marat Kogut
The Celtics and the Knicks face each other for the 8th time on Christmas Day. The Celtics are 4-3 vs the Knicks on Christmas but they are 12-17 overall on Christmas, with only one of those games being played in Boston. The Knicks are 22-28 in Christmas Day games. They last met on Christmas Day in 2011, resulting in a Knicks win.
This is the second of 4 meetings between these division rivals this season. The Celtics won the first meeting 115-87. The Celtics were without both Jae Crowder and Al Horford in that game while the Knicks were mostly healthy. It was a contentious game with the Knicks being assessed 6 technical fouls, with Carmelo Anthony being ejected.
The Celtics won the series 3-1 last season. The Celtics are 5-5 in their last 10 games while the Knicks are 6-4 in their last 20. The Knicks are tough to beat at Madison Square Garden with an 11-4 record at home. The Celtics are playing well on the road with an 11-7 record.
The Knicks big man, Kristaps Porzingis left the Knicks game in the 4th quarter on Thursday against the Magic with a bruised knee. On Saturday he said he was good to go and is expected to play in this one. The Celtics have no injuries listed. Maurice Ndour is out with an ankle injury for the Knicks.
PG: Isaiah Thomas
SG: Avery Bradley
SF: Jae Crowder
PF: Al Horford
C: Amir Johnson
PG: Derrick Rose
SG: Courtney Lee
SF: Carmelo Anthony
PF: Kristaps Porzingis
C: Joakim Noah
Maurice Ndour (ankle) out
Jae Crowder vs Carmelo Anthony
Jae has had success in the past in guarding Carmelo Anthony and for the Celtics to win, he will have to be successful in guarding him in this one. Melo leads the Knicks with 22.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 2.9 assists. Melo has said that he plans to keep his cool in this game and to avenge the earlier loss.
Al Horford vs Kristaps Porzingis
The Knicks 7'3" rookie is averaging 19.9 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game. His length and range make him very tough to handle and the Celtics will have their hands full, especially keeping him off the boards.
Isaiah Thomas vs Derrick Rose
Rose is averaging 16.8 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.4 assists. Rose was 3-10 for 11 points with 4 rebounds and 6 assists in the first meeting. Rose isn't known as a lock down defender and so hopefully Isaiah can have a big game. This may actually be the most important on the Celtics side as they will need another big game from Isaiah to get a win.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Playing tough team defense is the key to winning every game. The Celtics need to concentrate on getting stops and keeping the Knicks' offense off balance. The Knicks are 25th in the league with a defensive rating of 107.5 The Celtics are 14th with a defensive rating of 104.2. The Celtics must concentrate on playing tough team defense.
Rebound - Much of rebounding is effort and desire as evidenced by the fact that 6'2" Avery Bradley has been the Celtics leading rebounder. When the Celtics put out the extra effort to win the battle of the boards, they seem to play better overall. The Knicks are 3rd in the league with 45.8 rebounds per game and also 3rd with 15.7 second chance points per game. They have to grab rebounds to keep the Knicks from getting out on the break and to keep them from getting second chance points.
Be Aggressive - The Celtics need to be the more aggressive team. They have to be more aggressive in going after loose balls, in grabbing rebounds, in defending, and in going to the basket. They have to be the team that wants it more. Last season this group out worked almost every opponent they faced but they have only recently started to show that type of swagger this season. They have to be the team that works harder and that wants the game more.
Play 48 Minutes - The Celtics have to start strong and then play hard throughout the game. In almost every game, they tend to have a slump where they can't hit a shot and where they allow the other team to get easy points. They have to guard against that and play hard from the opening tip to the final buzzer.
On the Road
The Celtics are once again on the road after just one game at home. They have played well on the road so far this season and need to continue that in this game. They need to block out the distractions of playing on the road and concentrate on playing their game and getting the win.
The officiating is always an X-Factor. You never know if a crew will call the game tight or let them play and the team has to be able to adjust to any officiating style. And you never know when a ref will have an agenda and call it one sided for one of the teams. We can only hope for an evenly called game where they let them play.