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Celtics continue road trip with their 4th and final game against the Knicks

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The Celtics look for their second straight win as they take on the division rival New York Knicks.

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

The Celtics continue their 2 game road trip with a stop in New York to take on the Knicks. This is the 4th and final game between them this season. The Celtics lead the series 2-1, with each team winning on their home court. The Knicks haven’t won a season series with the Celtics since the 2012-13 season.

The Celtics are playing in the second of back to back games, beating Detroit on Friday night. The Celtics are 6-4 on the second night of back to back games and are 2-1 when the games are both on the road. Brad Stevens did a good job of managing minutes against Detroit as no player played more than 28 minutes. The Knicks last played on Thursday when they beat the Magic 120-113.

The Knicks are 26-12 at home. They are 2-8 in their last 10 games and are looking for their second straight win. They are 11th in the East and 7 games out of playoff contention. More importantly, they are just 6 games from being the worst team in the East. With Porzingis out for the rest of the season, they are definitely heading to the lottery. The Celtics are 19-8 on the road. They are 5-5 in their last 10 games.

Marcus Smart played on Friday night with a minutes restriction and is expected to play in this game. Shane Larkin was held out on Friday night with knee soreness and will be a game time decision for this game. Aron Baynes left Friday’s game with an elbow injury and is out for this game. Daniel Theis will get the start in his place. For the Knicks, they will definitely miss Kristaps Porzingis who is out with an ACL tear. Ron Baker is out with a shoulder injury and Joakim Noah is away from the team and will not play.

With a win, the Celtics have a chance to pull to within 1/2 a game of the first place Raptors who lost to the Bucks on Friday night and are off tonight.

Probable Celtics Starters

PG: Kyrie Irving
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Al Horford
C: Daniel Theis

Celtics Reserves
Abdel Nader
Semi Ojeleye
Guerschon Yabusele
Terry Rozier
Marcus Smart
Greg Monroe
Marcus Morris

Injuries
Shane Larkin (knee) expected to play
Gordon Hayward (ankle) out
Aron Baynes (elbow) out

Two Way Players
Kadeem Allen
Jabari Bird

Head Coach
Brad Stevens

Probable Knicks Starters

Key Matchups

Al Horford vs Michael Beasley
Beasley is averaging 12.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 1.4 assists. However, Beasley has played very well against the Celtics this season, putting up 32 points and 12 rebounds in their December 21st game. Horford must keep Beasley from having another big game. If Baynes can’t go and Horford moves to center, Marcus Morris will likely get the job of keeping Beasley in check.

Daniel Theis vs Enes Kanter
Kanter was the star of the first game between these two teams with 16 points and 19 rebounds. He is averaging 14.4 points, 10.7 rebounds and 1.6 assists. In 3 games vs the Celtics, he averaged 15.7 points and 15.3 rebounds. He is not a threat from the perimeter but is shooting 60.3% from the field. Theis gets the start in place of Aron Baynes and will need to try to slow Kanter down.

Honorable Mention
Jayson Tatum vs Tim Hardaway, Jr.
Hardaway is averaging 16.7 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 2.8 assists. He has been playing well since coming back from an injury that kept him out for much of the season. Jayson has to make Hardaway work on defense as well as keep him from having a big game on offense.

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 106.1 points per game while the Celtics allow 99.6 points per game. The Celtics let their defense slip somewhat recently but it looked good against the Pistons. They have to concentrate on consistently playing tough team defense in every game.

Rebound - The Celtics can’t score if they don’t have the ball, and rebounding is the best way to get extra possessions. The Celtics are averaging 44.3 rebounds per game while the Knicks are averaging 44.2 rebounds per game. Rebounding takes effort and determination and the Celtics need to have both to out-rebound the Knicks in this one.

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 they had in the first part of the season. 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. Also, if the outside shots aren’t falling for them, as they sometimes aren’t, they have to try to get to the basket and either get the basket or draw the foul.

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. They also have to play hard until the final buzzer because the Knicks have come back from double digit deficits to win 8 times already this season. The Celtics have to play hard from the opening tip until the final buzzer.

X-Factors
On the Road - The Celtics have played well on the road for the most part with a 19-8 record away from the TD Garden so far. The Celtics need to stay focused on playing Celtics basketball and not allow the hostile crowd and the distractions of playing on the road keep them from playing their best.

Fatigue - The Celtics playing in yet another back to back set with travel on the road between them. It would make sense that even though they were limited to 28 or fewer minutes on Friday, that they could be tired by the end of this game. They are going to have to dig down and give a bit extra to win this game on the road against a Knicks team that has had a day of rest.

Bench Play - In the Knicks win on December 21, their bench scored 56 of the team’s 102 points. Their bench played most of the 4th quarter and completely outplayed the Celtics bench who managed just 20 points. The Celtics reserves have to play better and keep the Knicks reserves from having another big game. The Celtics reserves scored 60 points against the Pistons and it would be great to see that same effort in this game.