The Celtics travel to New York to take on the Knicks in the first of four meetings this season. They will meet again at Madison Square Garden on March 1. They will meet twice in Boston, the first will be on on January 26 and then, again on February 27. They tied the series 2-2 last season with each team winning twice on their home court.
Both teams are playing on the second night of back to back games. The Knicks beat a 76ers team with out Embiid and Harden by 2 in Philadelphia on Friday night and the Celtics beat the Bulls at home by 4 points. This is the first back to back set for the Knicks. The Celtics are playing in their second back to back set. They won both halves of their first back to back during their 3 game win streak to start the season.
The Celtics are 299-186 overall all time against the Knicks. They are 137-120 all time in games played on the road in New York. The Celtics have lost their last 3 games played at Madison Square Garden. The Celtics are 2-2 on the road so far and 2-1 at home. The Knicks are 3-1 at home and 0-3 on the road. The Celtics are looking to win their second straight game. The Knicks had lost their last 3 games before winning on Friday night.
The Celtics remain without Robert Williams III who is still rehabbing from the surgery he had before the season. The prognosis was that he would return in 6-8 weeks and November 4 was 6 weeks since the surgery. They will likely be conservative with his return so I would expect it to be closer to the 8 week estimate. Also out is Danilo Gallinari, who will miss the entire season with an ACL tear.
Also out for the Celtics is Al Horford, who will sit out the second half of the back to back once again for what is being reported as back stiffness. The last time he sat out vs the Magic, Noah Vonleh got the start in his place. I’m guessing that he will start again. However, Luke Kornet may get the start since he has been playing more minutes than Vonleh in recent games. Marcus Smart landed on his hand in the 4th quarter on Friday and was holding his arm afterwards. Hopefully he will be good to go for this game since he isn’t on the injury list at this time.
For New York, Mitchell Robinson felt some knee soreness to start Friday’s game against the 76ers. He played just 12 minutes and finished with two rebounds before sitting for the rest of the game. Isaiah Hartenstein started the second half in his place. Since they are playing back to back games, I’m guessing that Robinson will miss this game as well. He is questionable and his status will be a game time decision. Quentin Grimes is questionable with foot soreness and will also be a game time decision. If he is able to play, he will likely get the start in place of Evan Fournier.
Probable Celtics Starters
2 Way Players
Danilo Gallinari (ACL) out
Robert Williams III (knee) out
Al Horford (back) out
Head Coach (Interim)
Probable Knicks Starters
2 Way Players
Mitchell Robinson (knee) doubtful
Quentin Grimes (foot) questionable
Marcus Smart vs Jalen Brunson
Brunson came over to the Knicks from the Mavericks this off season and has fit very well in his role for the Knicks. He is averaging 18.4 points, 3.7 rebounds, 6.9 assists and 1.1 steals per game. He is shooting 48.1% from the field and 32.1% from beyond the arc.
Derrick White vs RJ Barrett
Barrett is capable of having a big game if not defended well. He is averaging 17.9 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game. He is shooting 40.7% from the field and 23.7% from beyond the arc. Even through he is shooting just under 24% on 3’s the Celtics still can’t back off of him on the perimeter because Barrett can hit those shots if left open.
Jayson Tatum vs Julius Randle
Randle is averaging 17.7 points, 8.9 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.1 steals per game. He is shooting 42.6% from the fiels but just 20.7% from beyond the arc. The Celtics need to keep him out of the paint because he can do the most damage there on the boards and inside 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 have a defensive rating of 111.3 (15th), which is surprising for a Tom Thibodeau coached team. On the other hand, the Celtics have a defensive rating of 112.8 (19th), which is also surprising for a team that had the #1 defense last season. The Celtics have shown they are capable of playing very good defense but they need to be consistent and commit to it every quarter of every game. The Celtics must especially guard the paint as the Knicks are first in the league with 59.4 points in the paint per game.
Rebound - The Celtics are averaging 42.0 rebounds per game (26th) while the Knicks are averaging 50.1 rebounds per game (2nd). Rebounding is important to keep the Knicks from getting second chance points and extra possessions since the Knicks are 2nd in the league with 17.6 second chance points per 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. So far this season, we haven’t seen that extra effort on the boards very often.
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 need to hustle and be aggressive for 48 minutes every game. They can win a lot of games by playing harder than their opponents and they can lose a lot of games by allowing their opponents to be the team that plays harder.
Play Hard 48 Minutes - At times the Celtics have come out slowly and allowed their opponent to build a big first quarter lead. At other times the Celtics have built a lead and then stopped playing hard and allowed their opponent to come back and surge ahead. The Celtics have had a double digit lead in all 3 of their losses so far and then took their foot off the gas. Other times, they play their opponent even up until the final minutes and then can’t seem to close out. They have to start strong and play hard throughout the game right up until the final buzzer.
Back to Back on the Road - Both teams are playing in the second of back to back games. They are also playing in the 3rd game in 4 nights. There could be some fatigue down the stretch. They need to overcome the distractions of playing on the road and in front of a hostile crowd and stay focused on playing the right way. The teams’ depth could be a factor 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 refs seem to be worse than usual this season and 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 from playing the game.