The Celtics host the New York Knicks for a Sunday afternoon matinee game. The Celtics have the longest active win streak, having won their last 5 games. The Knicks, on the other hand, have the longest active losing streak, having lost their last 5 games after starting the season 5-3. Both teams last played on Friday night.
These are two of the original teams in the league and have had a storied rivalry over the years. The Celtics lead the series between these two teams 296-182 and they lead all time in Boston 159-64. The Knicks have not won in Boston since 2018. The Celtics swept the Knicks 3-0 last season. This is the only meeting between these two teams on the first half schedule.
The Celtics will still be short handed but for the first time this season, Kemba Walker is not listed as out. He has been upgraded to questionable. If he is able to play, I would expect him to start but also to be on a minutes restriction. I’ve included him in the starting lineup due to wishful thinking on my part. If he can’t play, I would expect Brad to go the same direction as Friday’s game with Smart at PG and Teague starting at shooting guard.
Tacko Fall is listed as questionable after tweaking his ankle when he came down from a dunk on Friday. Daniel Theis came off the bench on Friday and is listed as available for this game in spite of a finger sprain in the last game. I would expect him to return to the starting lineup against Randle. Romeo Langford (wrist), Carsen Edwards (covid), Jayson Tatum (covid), and Robert Williams (covid) are all out.
For the Knicks, Mitchell Robinson bruised his heel in Friday’s game vs the Cavaliers. He left the game but was able to return and is probable for this game. Nerlens Noel has been hampered with a back injury but is also probable for this game. Alec Burks is doubtful with an ankle injury and Frank Ntilikina is out with a knee injury.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Kemba Walker
SG: Marcus Smart
SF: Jaylen Brown
PF: Daniel Theis
C: Tristan Thompson
Tacko Fall (ankle) questionable
Daniel Theis (finger) available
Kemba Walker (knee) available
Romeo Langford (wrist) out
Robert Williams (covid) out
Jayson Tatum (covid) out
Carsen Edwards (covid) out
Probable Knicks Starters
PG: Elfrid Payton
SG: RJ Barrett
SF: Reggie Bullock
PF: Julius Randle
C: Mitchell Robinson
Dennis Smith, Jr
Mitchell Robinson (heel) probable
Nerlens Noel (back) probable
Alec Burks (ankle) doubtful
Frank Ntilikina (knee) out
Daniel Theis vs Julius Randle
Randle is averaging 22.8 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 6.8 assists. He finished Friday’s game with 28 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists. With Theis available today, I would expect him to start against Randle. Slowing Randle down will be key in this game.
Marcus Smart vs RJ Barrett
Barrett is averaging 16.3 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 3.4 assists per game. In Friday’s game, he put up 20 points. Barrett is struggling from the perimeter, shooting just 18.5% from deep. Even if Marcus starts at the point, I would expect him to spend much of the time covering Barrett as he is the Knicks second best scorer.
Kemba Walker vs Elfrid Payton
Payton is averaging 13.9 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4.5 assists. He is shooting 44% from the field and 33% from beyond the arc. I’m hoping to see Kemba starting but if he doesn’t, Jeff Teague will likely get tasked with guarding Payton.
Payton Pritchard vs Immanuel Quickley
This will be a matchup of rookie point guards. Both players have been getting accolades for their play so far. Pritchard is averaging 9.3 points, 2.6 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.2 steals. He is shooting 51% from the field, 44% from beyond the arc, and 90% from the line. Quickley is averaging 9.1 points, 1.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists. On Friday he finished with 23 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists.
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 have a defensive rating of 111.0 (22nd) while the Celtics have a defensive rating of 109.3 (15th). The Celtics Defense[/b] - 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 have a defensive rating of 107.7 (17th) while the Celtics have a defensive rating of 100.7 (9th). The Celtics have shown they are capable of playing very good defense and they need to commit to it every game.
Rebound - The Celtics are averaging 45.2 rebounds per game while the Knicks are averaging 45.5 rebounds per game. Rebounding is important to keep the Knicks from getting second chance points and extra possessions. Much of rebounding is effort and desire as evidenced by players like Payton Pritchard getting offensive rebounds when surrounded by much taller players. When the Celtics put out extra effort on the boards it usually transfers to the rest of their game.
Bench Play - The Celtics have gotten a boost off the bench from several players, even when playing short handed. On Friday, the Celtics got an impressive 66 points from the bench. They need players like Semi Ojeleye, Peyton Pritchard and Javonte Green to continue to contribute on both ends of the court.
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 as that is when they play the best.
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. The Magic fans mentioned that the Celtics were hungry as they were still hustling when they were up almost 30. They need to hustle and be aggressive for 48 minutes every game.
It’s the Knicks - The Celtics have to be careful not to underestimate the Knicks because they have dominated them in recent years. The Knicks started out 5-3, beating Milwaukee, Indiana, Atlanta and Utah. If the Celtics take them for granted and don’t come out ready to play, they could come away with a loss.
Injuries - It goes without saying that the Celtics would be better if Kemba, Theis and Tacko can play. And likewise, the Knicks will be tougher if Robinson, Noel and Burks can play. If the questionable players for the Celtics can’t play, the rest of the team must step up and fill in the void.
Officiating - Officiating always has the potential to be an x-factor. Each officiating crew calls the game differently. The Celtics need to adjust to how the refs are calling the game. The Celtics struggle when refs call every little ticky tack foul. Hopefully they call it evenly and let both teams play.