The Celtics host the New York Knicks for the 4th and final meeting between them this season. Their first meeting was on opening night when the Knicks handed the Celtics their first loss of the season 138-134 in double overtime at Madison Square Garden. The Celtics came back and won the 2nd meeting 114-107 in Boston. The Knicks took the third meeting 108-105 at Madison on Thursday as RJ Barrett made a 3 pointer at the buzzer for the win.
The Celtics have slipped to 11th in the East. They are 11-8 at home and 4-6 in their last 10 games. They are 12-11 against other Eastern Conference teams. The Celtics have lost their last 2 games. The Knicks are 10th in the East and are looking for their 3rd straight win. The Knicks are actually better on the road than they are at home. They have an 9-11 record at home and 10-9 record on the road. They are 6-4 in their last 10 games and are 13-16 against other Eastern Conference teams.
The Celtics are playing in the first of 2 straight home games and will face the Indiana Pacers in a home and home series coming up next. The Knicks are playing a single game on the road and then will head home for 2 straight games. This is the 485th meeting between these two teams who first met on December 7, 1946. The Knicks won that game 90-65. The Celtics are 298-186 all time vs the Knicks and they are 173-78 when playing in Boston.
Once again, the Celtics are as healthy as they have been in quite awhile. Payton Pritchard is out in the health and safety protocols and Brodric Thomas is out with a back injury. I’m assuming that the Celtics will start the same lineup as they did in the Thursday’s meeting although, I’d personally like to see Grant Williams get the start over Al Horford. The Celtics cut Jabari Parker on Friday, rather than to guarantee his contract for the rest of the season.
Evan Fournier starred in Thursday’s game but is listed as questionable for this game with a thigh bruise. I’m guessing that he will likely play and start, but if he’s out, Immanuel Quickley may get the start in his place. Kemba Walker (knee) and Derrick Rose (ankle) are still out. Nerlens Noel is questionable due to conditioning after coming out of quarantine. The Knicks signed Arcidiacono, called up from the Maine Celtics, to a 10 day contract and he is also questionable.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Marcus Smart
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Al Horford
C: Robert Williams III
Brodric Thomas (back) out
Payton Pritchard (covid) out
Probable Knicks Starters
PG: Alec Burks
SG: Evan Fournier
SF: RJ Barrett
PF: Julius Randle
C: Mitchell Robinson
Kevin Knox II
Nerlens Noel (conditioning) questionable
Derrick Rose (ankle) out
Kemba Walker (knee) out
Ryan Arcidiacono (ankle) questionable
Evan Fournier (thigh) questionable
Jaylen Brown vs Evan Fournier
Fournier is averaging 13.1 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game. He is shooting 40.7% from the field and 36.7% from beyond the arc. However, playing against the Celtics seems to bring out the best in him as he has scored 32, 32, and 41 points. It seems he can only score well against the Celtics. Jaylen Brown started out strong with 12 points in the first quarter but added only 4 more points the rest of the way. The Celtics need more from Jaylen on both ends of the court.
Jayson Tatum vs Julius Randle
Randle is the Knicks best player (other than when Fournier is playing the Celtics) and he is playing very well for them. He is averaging 19.6 points, 10.1 rebounds, and 4.9 assists per game. He is shooting 42.3% from the field and 32.7% from beyond the arc. He put up 35 points in one game vs the Celtics, 20 points in the 2nd game and 22 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals on Thursday. The Celtics need to slow him down on offense and keep him off the boards.
Jayson Tatum vs RJ Barrett
Barrett is averaging 15.2 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game this season. He is shooting 40.1% from the field and 32.7% from beyond the arc. He scored just 13 points against the Celtics on Thursday but 3 of those points were the game winner at the buzzer, which shows that he can be dangerous and the Celtics need to defend him for the full 48 minutes. Jayson Tatum had a good game on Thursday with 36 points, 6 rebounds, 9 assists, 2 steals and 1 block. He needs to play well again in this game and hopefully he can get more help from his teammates this time.
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 109.6 (19th) while the Celtics have a defensive rating of 107.6 (7th). However, they didn’t play all that great on the defensive end on Thursday, allowing the Knicks to shoot 50% from beyond the arc. The Celtics have shown they are capable of playing very good defense but they need to commit to it every minute of every game. It doesn’t work to just play defense for half the game and then let up. They need to play tough, in your face defense for 48 minutes.
Rebound - The Celtics are averaging 45.8 rebounds per game while the Knicks are averaging 45.1 rebounds per game. Rebounding is important to keep the Knicks from getting second chance points and extra possessions. The Knicks are 9th in the league with 14.3 second chance points per game. The Celtics were out-rebounded on Thursday 42-38 and they need to work harder to beat the Knicks on the boards in this game. 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.
Be Aggressive - The Celtics need to be the more aggressive team. Ime questioned their mental toughness after Thursday’s loss and they need to come out with the mindset that they are going to be the tougher and more aggressive team from start to finish. 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 need to hustle and be aggressive for 48 minutes every game. They can’t come out with low energy or let up midway through the game. They have to play hard for all 48 minutes.
Be Consistent - The Celtics as a team have to be more consistent. They need to play hard from the opening tip to the final buzzer. They have to take good shots and if they don’t fall, they need to get to the paint. They have to support each other and play as a team. They also need to be consistent individually. Jaylen can’t have big first quarters and then disappear. They have to play hard and play focused for the whole 48 minutes.
Revenge - The Celtics need to remember that their first loss came at the hands of the New York Knicks in the season opener. They fought hard and the game went to double overtime before the Knicks prevailed 138-134. They also have to remember the heartbreaking loss on Thursday after they lost a 25 point lead and lost the game on a last second game winner. The Knicks are a division rival vying for the 10th spot right now and so the Celtics need to give this game their all to avenge those losses.
Home Game - The Celtics are at home and have the advantage of the crowd behind them and not having to travel and having the comforts of home around them. Even though the Knicks are better on the road than they are at home, having home court advantage still should give the Celtics the edge in this one.
Officiating - Officiating always has the potential to be an x-factor. Each officiating crew calls the game differently. The Celtics struggle more when refs call every little ticky tack foul. Hopefully they call it evenly and let both teams play. The Celtics need to adjust to how the refs are calling the game and not allow bad calls or no calls to take away their focus on playing the game.