These division foes meet for the first of 4 games this season. They will meet one more time in Boston on January 31 and in twice in New York on December 21 and February 24. The Celtics win the series 3-1 last season. The last time the Knicks won the season series between these two teams was in 2012-13.
Both teams have changed considerably since they last met in the 2016-17 season. The Knicks finally unloaded Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose and this is now Kristaps Porzingis' team. They have added former Celtic Courtney Lee, Ramon Sessions, and Enes Kanter, among others. The Celtics return just 4 players from last year.
Marcus Smart missed Friday's game with two rolled ankles and is day to day. I expect them to be cautious with him and if he isn't 100%, they will hold him back. He will undergo tests in the morning and will be a game time decision. Marcus Morris has done some work on the court but is not expected to be evaluated until Monday and will miss the 3 games this week.
Joakim Noah was suspended for 20 games last season for violating the league's anti-drug policy. He served 8 games last season and has 12 games to serve this season. He is out for this game. Frank Ntilikina sprained his ankle in practice last week and did not practice on Monday and is expected to miss this game.
As has been the case with every game since Gordon Hayward went down, the starting lineup is fluid. Marcus Smart started one game and with his ankle injury keeping him out of the next game and Aron Baynes got the start. It worked out well in the last game as they got the victory so I guessed that they would go with the same lineup for this game. However, if Smart can return, they may go with him in the lineup. Although I would think against Porzingis and Kanter, bigger would be better.
Probable Celtics Starters
Marcus Morris (knee) out
Gordon Hayward (ankle) out
Marcus Smart (ankles) day to day
Two Way Players
Probable Knicks Starters
Two Way Players
Joakim Noah (suspended) out
Frank Ntilikina (ankle) questionable
Al Horford vs Kristaps Porzingis
This is now Kristaps Porzingis' team with the departure of Carmelo Anthony and he has taken advantage of the opportunity. He is averaging 32 points and 8.5 rebounds. Limiting him would go a long way toward getting a win against this team.
Kyrie Irving vs Ramon Sessions
Kyrie carries a lot on his shoulders with Gordon Hayward out for the season. With a new system and all new teammates, it may take him a bit to get back to his All-Star level of play. But with every game, he should show improvement and he should get the better of this matchup.
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 allow 108.0 points per game while the Celtics allow 100.7 points per game. The Celtics must concentrate on playing tough team defense to keep the Knicks from getting a win in this one.
Rebound - The Celtics for the first time in awhile aren't at the bottom of the league in rebounding. The Celtics are 8th with 48.0 rebounds per game while the Knicks are 25th with 40.0 rebounds per game. However, the Knicks are 7th in offensive rebounding and the Celtics will have to work harder to keep the Knicks off the offensive boards. The Knicks are 24th allowing 18 second chance points while the Celtics are 12th allowing just 12.3 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. They have to find the swagger and heart that last year's team played with. They simply have to out-work their opponents.
Move the Ball- The Celtics have to keep the ball moving and find the open man. When the ball sticks and one player tries to do too much, the team suffers. They have to play as a team and trust their teammates and keep the ball moving. No hero ball.
Focus - The Celtics are shooting just 66.7% from the free throw line. That shows a certain lack of focus on the part of each of the players. They have to keep their focus and hit their free throws and focus on playing Celtics basketball.
Desperation vs Confidence - The Celtics finally got their first win in their last game. They have to have a bit more confidence now that the monkey is off their backs. On the other hand, the Knicks are still looking for their first win and will be playing like the more desperate team. The Celtics have to keep a certain amount of desperation to get their first home win and not allow the Knicks to play harder.
Rest and Practice - Both teams come into this game rested. The Knicks last played on Saturday while the Celtics last played on Friday. The layoff should be more beneficial to the Celtics who desperately needed practice time to regroup after the loss of Gordon Hayward. Hopefully they used the time to their advantage.
Home Game - The Celtics lost their home opener and will be looking to get their first win for the home crowd. Hopefully they get a boost from the fans and it will carry them to a win in this game.