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Celtics visit division rival Knicks for a matinee game

The Celtics and Knicks face each other for the 4th and final time this season in a Sunday matinee game.

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
Boston Celtics (49-27) at New York Knicks (29-47)
Sunday, April 2, 2017
1:00 PM ET
Regular Season Game #76 – Road Game #39
Radio: 100.7 WZLX, ESPN NY 98.7
Madison Square Garden

This is the 4th and final meeting 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 and 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. The Knicks won the January 18th meeting 117-106. In that game, the Knicks shook up their starting lineup with Ron Baker at shooting guard, Mindaugas Kuzminskas at power forward and Kyle O'Quinn at center. Since that worked, they may very well try to shake things up in this game as well.

Both teams are coming off a win in their last game with the Knicks beating the Heat on the road. The Celtics are 8-2 in their last 10 games while the Knicks are 3-7 in their last 10. The Celtics are 21-17 on the road while the Knicks are 17-19 at home. The Knicks are 4-9 against Atlantic division teams. They are just 4-6 on Sundays.

The Knicks were 5-10 in March, but ended the month beating two teams fighting for playoff position. They beat the Detroit Pistons on Monday and then beat the Heat in Miami on Friday in the back end of a home and home series. The Knicks haven't won two straight games since Dec. 20 and 22 and they will miss the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season. Carmelo Anthony has missed three of the last five games. Derrick Rose sat out the win against the Heat on Friday with a sore left knee. Neither is listed on the injured list for this game.

Avery Bradley will miss his second game in a row with the stomach bug that sent him to the hospital last week. He did not travel with the team. Jaylen Brown will likely start once again in his place. Amir Johnson rolled his ankle against the Magic and is questionable for this game. I'm not sure who would start in his place if he can't play. For the Knicks, Lance Thomas is questionable with a sore hip and Joakim Noah is serving a 20 game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance.

Standings Reset - The Celtics remain 1/2 game ahead of the Cavaliers. They are tied in the loss column and the Celtics have one more win. Toronto and Washington are both 3 games behind the Celtics with the Raptors slipping in to 3rd by virtue of the tie breaker. The Bucks are 9 games back of the Celtics and the Hawks have slipped to 10th.
Games to Watch: 3/2 76ers at Raptors, Pacers at Cavaliers, Wizards at Golden State
3/3 Charlotte at Washington, Orlando at Cleveland, Toronto at Indiana

Probable Starters

PG: Isaiah Thomas
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Jae Crowder
PF: Amir Johnson
C: Al Horford

Celtics Reserves
Marcus Smart
Gerald Green
Demetrius Jackson
Jordan Mickey
Terry Rozier
James Young
Jonas Jerebko
Kelly Olynyk
Tyler Zeller

Avery Bradley (illness) out
Amir Johnson (ankle) day to day

Head Coach
Brad Stevens

Probable Starters

PG: Derrick Rose
SG: Courtney Lee
SF: Carmelo Anthony
PF: Kristaps Porzingis
C: Willy Hernangomez

Knicks Reserves
Maurice Ndour
Justin Holiday
Chasson Randle
Kyle O'Quinn
Sasha Vujacic
Ron Baker
Marshall Plumlee
Mindaugas Kuzminskas

Lance Thomas (hip) questionable
Joakim Noah suspended

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 22.7 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 2.9 assists.
Amir Johnson vs Kristaps Porzingis
The Knicks 7'3" rookie is averaging 18.1 points, 7.4 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. If Amir can't start, possibly Jonas Jerebko will get the start and have the problem of guarding Porzingis.

Honorable Mention

Isaiah Thomas vs Derrick Rose
Rose is averaging 18.0 points, 3.8 rebounds and 4.4 assists. In the last meeting between these two teams that the Knicks won, Rose finished with 30 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 assists. Rose isn't known as a lock down defender and so hopefully Isaiah can have a big game. It would seem that the Celtics must limit Rose's production to keep the Knicks from getting another win.

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 are 26th in the league with a defensive rating of 108.5 The Celtics have climbed to 11th with a defensive rating of 105.4. The Celtics let their defense slip against the Magic and they must get back to making tough team defense a priority.

Rebound - Much of rebounding is effort and desire. When the Celtics put out the extra effort to win the battle of the boards, they seem to play better overall. The Knicks are 4th in the league with 45.4 rebounds per game and also 3rd with 15.0 second chance points per game. The Celtics 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 allowed both the Magic and the Bucks to get off to quick lead and then spent the rest of the game fighting back. 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 a six game home stand. 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.

Knicks Matinee
The Celtics have to guard against something they have done quite a bit this season and that is to play down to the Knicks record as opposed to playing them as a team that is out to play spoiler and beat the Celtics. The Celtics are 6-4 on Sunday while the Knicks are 4-6 on Sunday. Playing at noon in a nationally televised game is always an x-factor. Hopefully the Celtics will be motivated and get 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.

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