This is the second game between these two division rivals this preseason. In their first meeting, the Celtics were playing on the second night of back to back games. After beating the 76ers on Sunday, the Celtics sat their top 6 players and started Pritchard, Banton, Brissett, Hauser and Kornet. The Celtics played well, but lost that game to the Knicks 114-107.
The Celtics have not played since last Wednesday. They sat Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown in that game. I’m expecting to see all of the players in this one since they have just this game and one more in the preseason and they haven’t played their top 6 players together except in the first game. The Knicks lost 121-112 on Saturday. They have played all of their starters in both of their games so far.
There have been quite a few articles about who will start for the Celtics this season. Joe Mazzulla has said that it doesn’t matter who starts. The Celtics basically have 6 starters and will need one of those to come off the bench. Jrue Holiday came off the bench in the first game. Al Horford has started all but 14 games in his career but is willing to come off the bench. Derrick White has done well as a starter but is also willing to come off the bench.
We can be pretty sure that Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown will start along with Kristaps Porzingis. But beyond that, Joe Mazzulla may mix and match the other two starters among Holiday, Horford and White. He may also throw a surprise starter in there once in a while. For the final two preseason games, it’s hard to say who will start. I’m guessing that Holiday and White start and Horford comes off the bench but they may all sit and we may see the reserves start once again.
The Knicks have started their regular starting lineup of Brunson, Grimes, Barrett, Randle and Robinson for their first two games. Tom Thibodeau is known for riding his starters pretty hard and so I’m guessing that that same lineup will start this game but as with everything in the preseason, he may surprise us and sit someone or start a different lineup. The Celtics have just Jay Scrubb (knee) on the injury list and the Knicks have Ryan Arcidiacono (rest) listed as questionable.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Jrue Holiday
SG: Derrick White
SF: Jaylen Brown
PF: Jayson Tatum
C: Kristaps Porzingis
JD Davison (2 Way)
Neemias Queta (2 Way)
Jay Scrubb (torn ACL) out
Probable Knicks Starters
PG: Jalen Brunson
SG: Quentin Grimes
SF: RJ Barrett
PF: Julius Randle
C: Mitchell Robinson
Jaylen Martin (2 Way)
Duane Washington, Jr
Dylan Windler (2 Way)
Nathan Knight (2 Way)
Charlie Brown, Jr
Ryan Arcidiacono (rest) questionable
Jayson Tatum vs Julius Randle
Jayson Tatum has played in just one game so far and struggled on the offensive end against the 76ers, shooting just 3-13 for 13 points. However, he did pull down 10 rebounds and had 5 assists. Randle averaged 9 points, 6 rebounds and 2 assists in 17.9 minutes in 2 games so far. The muscle that Tatum put on should come in handy against Randle.
Kristaps Porzingis vs Mitchell Robinson
Porzingis averaged 14 points and 5 rebounds in 21 minutes in the 2 games he has played in. Robinson averaged 9 points, 7 rebound, and 2 blocks in 22 minutes in the 2 games he has played so far. He also shot 90% from the field but hasn’t shot a 3 pointer.
Jrue Holiday vs Jalen Brunson
Brunson has averaged 9.5 points, 1 rebound, and 2.5 assists in 10 minutes per game over 2 games so far. Holiday has averaged 8.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 19.5 minutes per game over 2 games so far. Since I’m not sure if Holiday will start or come off the bench, it may be Derrick White who is matched up at the point against Brunson.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Whether it is the first game of preseason, or the final game of the NBA Finals, defense is always the key to winning. Both Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have declared that they want to make the All Defensive team. Jrue Holiday brings a defensive mindset to the game as does Derrick White. Joe Mazzulla has said that he will emphasize defense more often in practices this season. Let’s hope the Celtics follow through with this and reclaim their defensive identity this season.
Rebound - The Celtics can’t score if they don’t have the ball, and the best way to get the ball is the grab rebounds. They have lost some of their rebounding with Timelord playing in Portland but at 7’3”, Kristaps Porzingis should be able to grab rebounds and Jayson Tatum has showed that he is willing to fight for rebounds with 10 against the 76ers. The Celtics also need to rebound as a team with every Celtic battling on the boards. It will take a team effort to beat the Knicks on the boards. In spite of the loss in their first game against the Knicks, the Celtics out-rebounded the Knicks 50-39. They are going to have to do that once again in this game.
Reserve Play - Joe Mazzulla has said that he expects the starters to play in this game but with the starters likely to be playing light minutes once again, the Celtics will need to lean heavily on their reserves. How will the new players like Banton, Brissett, Walsh, Mykhailiuk and Gabriel do as they get the minutes? How will returning players like Luke Kornet, Sam Hauser, and Payton Pritchard do as they want to show that they belong in the rotation?
Chemistry - Chemistry and continuity are both important to teams trying to win a championship. The Celtics have several new players to work into the team and to build chemistry with. They have the continuity of the same head coach and key players returning. The Knicks are returning most of their team from last season and have had Tom Thibodeau at the helm for several years so have both chemistry and continuity on their side.
Preseason - It’s the preseason and most of the time coaches don’t care if they win or lose but are looking for improvement in players, which rotations work, which players on the cusp will stick with the team and keeping their key players healthy. In the end, hopefully both teams stay healthy and we see some good things from starters and reserves alike.