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New York Knicks (26-23) at Boston Celtics (35-14) Game #50 1/26/23

The Celtics look to get back on track as they host the New York Knicks in the first game of a 4 game home stand.

Boston Celtics v New York Knicks Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

The Celtics host the New York Knicks for the second of four meetings this season. The Celtics won the first meeting at New York 133-118 on November 5. They will meet again at Madison Square Garden on March 1. They will meet again in Boston on February 27. They tied the series 2-2 last season with each team winning twice on their home court.

The Knicks are coming off a win at home over the Cavaliers. This is the first of 2 games on the road for them with the second in Brooklyn on Saturday. The Celtics just finished a 3 game road trip that ended in 2 losses to the Magic and the Heat. This is the first of a 4 game home stand that will also include the Lakers, Nets and Suns.

The Celtics remain 1st in the East. They are 3 games ahead of 2nd place Philadelphia, 3.5 games ahead of 3rd place Milwaukee and 5 games ahead of 4th place Brooklyn. They are 18-5 at home and 8-2 in their last 10 games. They are 20-10 against Eastern Conference opponents and 6-0 against the Atlantic Division. They have lost their last 2 games.

The Knicks are 7th in the East, in the first play-in position. They are 1 game behind Miami for the 6th spot and a playoff berth. They are 4 ahead of 11th place Cleveland to move out of the play-in spots. They are 14-10 on the road (but just 12-13 at home) and 5-5 in their last 10 games. They are 17-14 against Eastern Conference teams and 2-6 against the Atlantic Division. They are looking for their second straight win.

The Celtics will be without Marcus Smart for the 3rd straight game as he recovers from an ankle sprain. I’m going to guess that Derrick White will start in his place. Danilo Gallinari remains out as he rehabs from the torn ACL. Malcolm Brogdon (personal) and Jaylen Brown (adductor) are both expected to return for this game. For the Knicks, Mitchell Robinson is out after having thumb surgery. Evan Fournier is a game time decision due to personal reasons.

Probable Celtics Starters

PG: Derrick White
SG:Jaylen Brown
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Al Horford
C: Robert Williams III

Celtics Reserves
Malcolm Brogdon
Grant Williams
Sam Hauser
Luke Kornet
Blake Griffin
Justin Jackson

2 Way Players
JD Davison
Mfiondu Kabengele

Danilo Gallinari (ACL) out
Marcus Smart (ankle) out

Head Coach (Interim)
Joe Mazzulla

Probable Knicks Starters

PG: Jalen Brunson
SG: Quentin Grimes
SF: RJ Barrett
PF: Julius Randle
C: Jericho Sims

Knicks Reserves
Ryan Arcidiacono
Isaiah Hartenstein
Miles McBride
Svi Mykhailiuk
Immanuel Quickley
Cam Reddish
Derrick Rose
Obi Toppin

2 Way Players
Daquan Jeffries
Trevor Keels

Mitchell Robinson (thumb) out
Evan Fournier (personal) questionable

Head Coach
Tom Thibodeau

Key Matchups

Derrick White vs Jalen Brunson
Brunson came over to the Knicks from the Mavericks this off season and has fit very well with the Knicks. He is averaging 22.3 points, 3.5 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 1.0 steal per game. He is shooting 46.8% from the field and 40.4% from beyond the arc. In the first game against the Celtics he finished with 22 points, 3 rebounds, and 10 assists. He shot 58.8% from the field and didn’t take a 3 pointer.

Al Horford vs Julius Randle
Randle is averaging 24.6 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 4.0 assists per game. He is shooting 46% from the field and 34.5% from beyond the arc. In the first game this season Randle had 29 points, 9 rebounds and 2 assists while shooting 52.6% from the field and 42.9% from beyond the arc. The Celtics need to keep him out of the paint because he can do damage there on the boards and inside scoring but they also need to stay with him on the perimeter because he can score from there as well.

Honorable Mention
Jayson Tatum vs RJ Barrett
Barrett is averaging 20.3 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game this season. He is shooting 43.4% from the field and 33.8% from beyond the arc. In the first game this season, he finished with 27 points, 4 rebounds 4 assists and 1 steal while shooting 60% from the field and on 3’s.

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 113.2 (14th), which is surprising for a Tom Thibodeau coached team. On the other hand, the Celtics have a defensive rating of 110.8 (5th). 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 average 51.8 points in the paint per game.

Rebound - The Celtics are averaging 44.5 rebounds per game (8th) while the Knicks are averaging 47.3 rebounds per game (3rd). Rebounding is important to keep the Knicks from getting second chance points and extra possessions since the Knicks are 1st in the league with 17.8 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.

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. Other times, they play their opponent even up until the final minutes and then can’t seem to close out as we saw on Tuesday against the Heat. They have to start strong and play hard throughout the game right up until the final buzzer.

Play the Right Way - The Celtics have to stay focused and play the right way. They need to move the ball and look to get the best shots on every possession. They need to play as a team and trust each other and have each others’ backs on defense. They need to take care of the ball and make good passes and not dribble into a crowd. If the 3s aren’t falling, they need to take the ball into the paint. They need to keep their heads in the game and not lose focus.

Home Again - 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, playing on their home court 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. Most of all, they need to stop complaining every time they get a call they don’t like.

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