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Shorthanded Celtics return home to host the Knicks

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Without Kyrie Irving, the Celtics host the New York Knicks in a nationally televised game.

NBA: Boston Celtics at New York Knicks Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

These division foes meet for the third of 4 games this season. They will meet one more time in New York on February 24. The Celtics won the first game 110-89 at the TD Garden while the Knicks took the second game 102-93 at MSG. The Celtics won the series 3-1 last season. The last time the Knicks won the season series between these two teams was in 2012-13.

The Celtics are 5-5 in their last 10 games and are coming off a 2-2 Western road trip. This is the first of a 3 game home stand. The Celtics are 18-8 at home. The Knicks are 3-7 in their last 10 games and are 7-19 on the road. The Celtics are looking for their 2nd straight win while the Knicks are looking for their 3rd win in a row after beating the Nets on Tuesday night.

The Celtics are still the top team in the East, just 1 game ahead of the Raptors. The Knicks are 10th in the East 3 games out of playoff contention. The Knicks are playing in the second of back to back games, having played the Nets at home on Tuesday night. They are 4-6 on the second night of back to back games and 1-4 when the games are home/away.

The Celtics are still without Gordon Hayward (ankle) and Marcus Smart, who is still out with the cut on his hand. Shane Larkin was a late scratch Monday with a sore knee and is listed as questionable for this game. Kyrie was limping at the end of Monday’s game and will be out for this game with a quad injury. I’m not sure if Jarell Eddie is still with the team on the 10 day contract but last I saw, the Celtics were not going to sign him to a second 10 day contract.

I’m going to assume that Kadeem Allen, who was called up for the Denver game, is still with the team as the back court is very thin. I’m thinking that Terry Rozier will get the start in spite of playing on a sore ankle, since there aren’t a lot of choices left. The Knicks are very actively shopping Joakim Noah and holding him out of games in the meantime. Ron Baker is out with a shoulder injury.

Probable Celtics Starters

PG: Terry Rozier
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Al Horford
C: Aron Baynes

Celtics Reserves
Abdel Nader
Semi Ojeleye
Daniel Theis
Guerschon Yabusele
Marcus Morris
Jarell Eddie
Kadeem Allen

Injuries
Gordon Hayward (ankle) out
Marcus Smart (hand) out
Shane Larkin (knee) questionable
Kyrie Irving (quad) out
Guerschon Yabusele (ankle) probable

Two Way Players
Jabari Bird
Kadeem Allen

Head Coach
Brad Stevens

Probable Knicks Starters

PG: Jarrett Jack
SG: Courtney Lee
SF: Tim Hardaway, Jr.
PF: Kristaps Porzingis
C: Enes Kanter

Knicks Reserves
Michael Beasley
Damyean Dotson
Trey Burke
Willy Hernangomez
Doug McDermott
Kyle O’Quinn
Lance Thomas
Frank Ntilikina

Two Way Players
Isaiah Hicks
Luke Kornet

Injuries
Joakim Noah (make an offer) out
Ron Baker (shoulder) out

Head Coach
Jeff Hornacek

Key Matchups

Aron Baynes vs Enes Kanter
Kanter was the star of the first game between these two teams with 16 points and 19 rebounds. He followed that up with 14 points and 10 rebounds in the second game. He is averaging 13.8 points, 9.9 rebounds and 1.4 assists. He is not a threat from the perimeter but is shooting 60.3% from the field. Baynes has to keep him out of the paint and especially off the boards.

Al Horford vs Kristaps Porzingis
Porzingis is averaging 23.1 points, 6.67 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks. He is also shooting 39.1% from beyond the arc. In their first meeting, the Celtics limited him to 12 points on 3-12 shooting In their second meeting, he scored just 1 point on 0-11 shooting. Limiting him once again would go a long way toward getting a win against this team. With Kyrie and Marcus both out and Shane questionable and with Terry playing on a balky ankle, I expect to see Al playing a lot of point forward along with having to defend Porzingis.

Honorable Mention
Jayson Tatum vs Tim Hardaway, Jr
Hardaway is averaging 18.0 points, 3.1 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game. In the first game between these two teams, he scored 6 points on 2-11 shooting. He didn’t play in the Knicks win on 12/21 and in his place, Michael Beasley had 32 points and 12 rebounds so maybe it is good that he is back for this game. Whether it is Hardaway or Beasley on the court at the small forward spot, the Celtics have to limit their scoring.

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 106.2 points per game and have a defensive rating of 106.6 while the Celtics allow 98.8 points per game and have a defensive rating of 100.2. The Celtics must concentrate on playing tough team defense to keep the Knicks from getting a win in this one.

Rebound - The Celtics are 10th with 44.3 rebounds per game while the Knicks are 13th with 44.1 rebounds per game. The Celtics are getting it done with a team rebounding effort and not depending on one or two players to be the rebounders. The Knicks are 6th with 13.6 second chance points and so the Celtics must crash the boards to keep the Knicks from getting easy points off of rebounds. The Celtics are 23-1 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. They have to find the swagger and heart that it takes to play harder than their opponents. They simply have to out-work the Knicks.

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.

Play 48 Minutes - The Celtics have to start out strong and not allow themselves to get down big early. It takes too much effort to fight their way back from a big deficit. If they get a lead, they have to play hard to keep that lead and not let up because the Knicks have come back from double digit deficits to win several times already this season. They have to play hard from the opening tip until the final buzzer.

X-Factors
Back Home - The Celtics are back at home after a grueling road trip and should get a boost from the home crowd and the familiar court. However, the first game back after a road trip is usually a tough one. The Celtics need to stay focused and play their game.

It’s the Knicks - The Celtics can’t afford to come out with less than their best effort just because the Knicks are 5 games under .500. They need to keep in mind that the Knicks beat them last time out and so they need to be motivated to avenge that loss. Also, the Knicks are division rivals and so the Celtics need to always give it their best shot to beat them, no matter the circumstances.

Next Man Up - With the news that Kyrie will be out and Shane Larkin questionable, the Celtics are very short handed in the back court. Every player must pick up their game and play harder and smarter, especially on the offensive end, to help make up for Kyrie’s absence.