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Surging Celtics host slumping division rival Knicks

The Celtics look for their 4th straight win as they host the slumping Atlantic Division rival New York Knicks.

Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports
New York Knicks (18-24) at Boston Celtics (26-15)
Wednesday, January 18, 2017
7:30 PM ET
Regular Season Game #42, Home Game #20
TV: CSN-NE, MSG, NBA-LP 756(DTV), 754(xfinity)
Radio: 100.7 WZLX, ESPN NY 98.7
TD Garden
Referees: Jason Phillips, Mark Ayotte, Mark Lindsay

This is the third 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 beat the Knicks 119-114 at MSG on Christmas day in a nationally televised game. Both teams were pretty much healthy for that game. They will meet once more on April 2 at MSG.

While the Celtics are surging, winning 7 of their last 8 games and 8 of their last 10 games, the Knicks have won just 2 of their last 10 games. The Knicks have lost their last 2 games and have lost 4 in a row in Boston. The Celtics have won 3 straight. The Celtics are 13-6 at home while the Knicks are 6-15 on the road.

The Knicks have had considerable turmoil on the team. Derrick Rose was awol from the team without letting them know he was not going to make it for a game. Carmelo Anthony is unhappy with rumors that Phil Jackson is floating his name in trade rumors. First year coach Jeff Hornacek is trying to find some way to get his team going and replaced Courtney Lee in the starting lineup with rookie Ron Baker. Lee was not happy about it and made his feelings known on Instagram. Ron Baker is expected to start in this game also.

The Knicks big man Kristaps Porzingis has missed their last 3 games with a strained Achilles. He has been ruled out for this game but hopes to return soon. Lance Thomas is expected to miss this game with an injury to his orbital socket. Joakim Noah missed shoot around and is questionable for this game with a sore ankle. If both of the Knicks starting big men are out, then the Knicks whould have to choose among Mindaugas Kuzminskas, Kyle O'Quinn or Willy Hernangomez to start at center and power forward. Tyler Zeller practiced on Tuesday but is expected to miss this game. James Young is a game time decision.

Probable Starters

PG: Isaiah Thomas
SG: Avery Bradley
SF: Jae Crowder
PF: Al Horford
C: Amir Johnson

Celtics Reserves
Marcus Smart
Gerald Green
Demetrius Jackson
Jordan Mickey
Terry Rozier
Jonas Jerebko
Kelly Olynyk
Jaylen Brown

Tyler Zeller (sinus) out
James Young (ankle) game time decision

Head Coach
Brad Stevens

Probable Starters

PG: Derrick Rose
SG: Ron Baker
SF: Carmelo Anthony
PF: Mindaugas Kuzminskas
C: Joakim Noah

Knicks Reserves
Brandon Jennings
Justin Holiday
Kyle O'Quinn
Willy Hernangomez
Sasha Vujacic
Courtney Lee
Marshall Plumlee
Maurice Ndour

Lance Thomas (orbital) out
Kristaps Porzingas (Achilles) out

Joakim Noah (ankle) questionable

Head Coach
Jeff Hornacek

Key Matchups
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 3.1 assists. Hopefully Jae can keep Melo working on the defensive end as he has been shooting very well.

Isaiah Thomas vs Derrick Rose
Rose is averaging 17.5 points, 3.8 rebounds and 4.4 assists. Rose isn't known as a lock down defender and so hopefully Isaiah can have a big game. While Rose is trying to make up for his recent unexcused absence, Isaiah has been setting records for the Celtics. IT is averaging 31.6 points per game in the 16 games since coming back from a groin injury. He is averaging a record 10.1 points in the 4th quarter.

Keys to the Game
- 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 allow 108.3 points per game while the Celtics allow 104.7 points per game. The Celtics must concentrate on playing tough team defense to keep the Knicks from getting a win in this one.

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 average 45.5 rebounds per game while the Celtics average 41.2 rebounds 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. The Celtics are 11-0 when they out-rebound their opponents.

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.

Desperation vs Confidence

The Knicks are a desperate team and will be playing like it. They are desperate to stop the losing and to get their team back on the winning track and a win over their division rival would be a big boost for them. The Celtics are playing with confidence but there is a fine line between confidence and over-confidence. If the Celtics get over confident, they may just give the Knicks an opening to get a 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.

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