The Celtics face their third division rival in a row as they visit the New York Knicks. The Celtics won the series 3-1 last season with the Knicks winning once in Boston. The last Knicks win over the Celtics at Madison Square Garden was December 21, 2017. The Celtics are 293-182 all time against the Knicks.
This is the first of 4 games between these two teams. They will meet again in New York on December 1 and they will meet in in just one week on November 1 and again on March 18 in Boston. Both teams are playing on the second night of back to back games with the Celtics winning at home on Friday and the Knicks losing on the road to the Nets on a Kyrie game winner. Both teams are playing in their 3rd game in 4 nights.
The Celtics will be facing Marcus Morris in this game after he signed with the Knicks this summer. He was the Celtics’ most consistent player last season and should bring some consistency and toughness to the Knicks. He started out the preseason by bouncing a ball off of his opponent’s head and getting tossed.
The Knicks also have Kadeem Allen on their roster as a two way player. The Celtics drafted Kadeem with the 53rd pick in the 2017 draft. He was the first two way player signed by the team. They waived him in July of 2018 and the Knicks signed him 10 days later. He is questionable for this game with a knee injury. Mitchel Robinson is a game time decision with an ankle injury and Reggie Bullock is out with a back injury.
Enes Kanter was injured on opening night against the Sixers and missed Friday’s game with a knee contusion and is expected to miss this game as well. Romeo Langford has been out since the preseason and is close to returning but is still out. Tacko Fall is available after missing the first two games with a concussion. As of now, it isn’t known if he will be active for this game.
Daniel Theis left Friday’s game in the first half with an ankle injury but he was back on the court to start the second half. He has been ruled out for Saturday’s game against the Knicks. The game notes have the starting center as to be determined. I’m going to guess that Robert Williams will start but we may see Grant Williams get the start after his strong game on Friday. We also should get to see Vincent Poirier make his NBA debut with the top two centers out with injuries.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Kemba Walker
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Gordon Hayward
PF: Jayson Tatum
C: Robert Williams III
Enes Kanter (knee) out
Romeo Langford (knee) out
Tacko Fall (concussion) day to day
Daniel Theis (ankle) out
Two Way Players
Probable Knicks Starters
PG: RJ Barrett
SG: Allonzo Trier
SF: Julius Randle
PF: Marcus Morris, Sr
C: Bobby Portis
Dennis Smith, Jr
Kevin Knox II
Kadeem Allen (knee) game time decision
Mitchell Robinson (ankle) game time decision
Reggie Bullock (back) out
Two Way Players
Jayson Tatum vs Marcus Morris, Sr
Morris got a strong start for the Knicks with a team high 26 points to go with 4 rebounds and 1 assist. He followed that up with 11 points and 2 rebounds in his second game. Tatum and Morris know each other well and so this will be a fun matchup to watch.
Kemba Walker vs RJ Barrett
This is a matchup of the All NBA veteran vs the rookie. Barrett is showing a lot of promise so far with a strong first game of 21 points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists. Kemba is still getting used to a new system and new teammates and so Barrett may be able to take advantage of that in this matchup.
Gordon Hayward vs Julius Randle
Randle is a strong player at 6’9” and 250 lbs. Gordon will need to try to be quicker than Randle rather than try to overpower him. Randle started the season with 25 points, 11 rebounds and 6 assists and so Gordon is going to need to stay with him to keep him from having another big game.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is always the key to winning. The Celtics need to make defense their calling card this year. Every player must commit to playing tough team and individual defense. The Celtics need to concentrate on getting stops and keeping the Knicks’ offense off balance.
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 were out-rebounded in the first game and lost and they out-rebounded the Raptors in the second game and won. It’s not a coincidence. Rebounding takes effort and determination and the Celtics need to have both to out-rebound the Knicks in this one. Every player must commit to crashing the boards.
Keep Moving - This means both the ball and the players. Players have to keep moving and run on every possession. They also need to keep the ball moving and make the extra pass to get the best shot. When the ball sticks with players instead of moving the offense gets stagnant and the Celtics don’t score. Keep moving and keep the ball moving.
On the Road - The Celtics are back on the road. They lost focus in their first road game and couldn’t throw a rock in the ocean to quote Jayson Tatum. Often rookies struggle on the road, but the veterans should remain focused and help keep the young players on track. They need to ignore the hostile fans and stay focused on Celtics basketball.
It’s the Knicks - The Celtics can’t get overconfident because the Knicks aren’t supposed to be very good this season. They need to come out strong and play like they are playing the best team in the league. Too often they lose because they underestimate a lottery team. Play their game and play hard regardless of the opponent.