The Celtics have a quick turn around after beating the Philadelphia 76ers 114-106 in Boston on Sunday. They are playing on the second night of back to back games. They have 3 games in 4 nights with another game in Philadelphia on Wednesday night. They then have 5 days off before playing the Knicks at home on the following Tuesday. This is the first preseason game for the Knicks, who don’t play again until Saturday when they host the Timberwolves.
The Celtics started a line up with double bigs with Al Horford and Kristaps Porzingis both starting against the 76ers. I’m guessing that Al will sit out this game due to the Celtics playing back to back. Jrue Holiday may start at the point with Derrick White moving to the 2 guard. Or, Joe Mazzulla may throw one of his curve balls at us with Pritchard starting at the point. The starters played between 20 and 26 minutes on Sunday with JD Davison, Wenyen Gabriel, Svi Mykhailiuk, Neemias Queta, DJ Steward, and Jordan Walsh all receiving DNP CD’s.
The Knicks return mostly the same team as last season with the addition of Donte DiVincenzo. DiVincenzo should fit in with this Knicks roster because he will be joining 3 of his former Villanova teammates on the team. Arcidiacono, Brunson and Hart all played with DiVincenzo at Villanova. The Knicks also lost Obi Toppin who didn’t get enough minutes to develop with Julius Randle getting the most minutes at power forward and was traded for a couple second round picks.
Julius Randle struggled in the playoffs and then had ankle surgery in June. He is reportedly ready to play and is recovering his explosiveness that he lost with the ankle injury. Evan Fornier went from playing regular minutes to playing very little with many DNP’s last season when Josh Hart joined the team. He has made his desire to play more minutes and to have a bigger role very clear. It is a contract year for him and so that has been a distraction for the team.
The Celtics 2 Way player Jay Scrubb suffered a torn right ACL during practice on Saturday and has been added to the injury report. He is expected to miss the rest of the season. Last season, Al Horford did not play in back to back games. I’m assuming that he will continue that trend this season and will either be listed on the injury report or will receive a DNP-CD. The Knicks have no one on the injury list at this time.
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: Jericho Sims
Jaylen Martin (2 Way)
Duane Washington, Jr
Dylan Windler (2 Way)
Nathan Knight (2 Way)
Charlie Brown, Jr
Jaylen Brown vs RJ Barrett
Brown may or may not start in this game and he may or may not play and the same can be true of RJ Barrett. But, assuming that both do play, this matchup will be key for both teams. Brown still struggled with his handle against the 76ers and hopefully he can get this under control and do better in that area. He shot 7-10 against the 76ers for 19 points and hopefully he will once again play well offensively.
Jayson Tatum vs Julius Randle
Jayson Tatum struggled on the offensive end against the 76ers, shooting just 3-13 for 13 points. However, he did pull down 10 rebounds. Randle is returning from ankle surgery and will be looking to regain his explosiveness and assert his will on the game. The muscle that Tatum put on should come in handy against Randle.
Kristaps Porzingis vs Mitchell Robinson
Porzingis had a great debut for the Celtics against the 76ers. He shot 5-7 from the field and 2-3 from beyond the arc for 17 points to go with 5 rebounds and 1 block. I’m expecting him to move to center for this game with Al Horford likely sitting out the back to back.
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. 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 mindset 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 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.
Reserve Play - With the starters likely to be playing light minutes, the Celtics will need to lean heavily on their reserves. How will the new players like Banton, Brissett, Walsh, Mykhailiuk and Gabriel do in their first game as Celtics? How will returning players like Luke Kornet, Sam Hauser, and Payton Pritchard do as they return to the lineup as key reserves with something to prove. It would be nice to see another 26 point game from Payton Pritchard.
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.
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.