The Celtics look to stay unbeaten at home as they host the New York Knicks. This is the 3rd game between these two teams this season. The Celtics won 108-104 in New York on opening night and they won a second time 114-98 in Boston on November 13. They also played twice in the preseason with the Celtics winning in Boston and the Knicks winning in New York. They are on the schedule for 2 more games this season: February 24 in New York and April 11 in Boston.
This game was added to the schedule after both teams lost in the knock out round of the In Season Tournament. The Knicks next game will be on December 11 at home against the Raptors and then they will head out on a 5 game Western road trip. The Celtics don’t play again until December 12 when they will resume their home stand with 2 games against the Cavaliers and then 2 games against the Magic before they begin a 4 game Western road trip.
The Celtics remain first in the East, 1 game ahead of Milwaukee, 1.5 games ahead of Orlando and 2 games ahead of Philadelphia. They are 7-3 in their last 10 games and they are 8-1 against Atlantic Division teams. They are 9-0 at home. The Knicks are 5th in the East, 3 games behind Boston, 1 game behind Philadelphia and tied with Indiana. They are 7-3 in their last 10 games and 1-2 against Atlantic Division teams. They are 6-5 on the road.
Both teams are expected to come into this game healthy. Kristaps Porzingis missed the last 4 games for the Celtics with a calf injury. He was a full participant during Wednesday’s practice and participated in a 5-on-5 scrimmage with coaches following practice. He is listed as a game time decision but is expected to return to the starting lineup for the Celtics in this game. The Knicks have no one listed 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
2 Way Players
Probable Knicks Starters
PG: Jalen Brunson
SG: Quentin Grimes
SF: RJ Barrett
PF: Julius Randle
C: Mitchell Robinson
2 Way Players
Duane Washington, Jr
Charlie Brown, Jr
Jrue Holiday vs Jalen Brunson
Brunson has averaged 24.9 points, 3.7 rebound, and 5.6 assists and 1.0 steals per game. He is shooting 46.6% from the field and 45.7% from beyond the arc. Against the Celtics this season he averaged 20.5 points, 3 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals. He shoots a high percentage from 3 and so the Celtics have to defend him well on the perimeter.
Jayson Tatum vs Julius Randle
Randle is the reigning Eastern Conference player of the week. He is averaging 21.5 points, 10.0 rebounds, and 5.5 assists per game. He is shooting 43% from the field and just 29.2% from beyond the arc. In the first 2 games against the Celtics, he averaged 19.5 points, 10 rebounds 6 assists, and 1 steals. He shot 29.3% from the field and 31.3% from beyond the arc. Randle has struggled with his shot at times this season but he is very capable of having a big game at any time.
Jaylen Brown vs RJ Barrett
Barrett is averaging 18.9 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game. He is shooting 41.8% from the field and 38.2% from beyond the arc. Against the Celtics this season, he averaged 24 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 steal. He shot 40% from the field and 40% from beyond the arc.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is the key to winning every game. The Knicks average 111.5 points per game (21st) while the Celtics average 116.5 points per game (10th). The Celtics have a defensive rating of 108.2 (2nd) while the Knicks have a defensive rating of 110.8 (7th). Both teams want to be defensive minded but both teams forget their defensive identity from time to time. The Celtics gave up 74 points in the second half against the Pacers. They have got to play tougher team defense if they hope to get a win in this game.
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. The Celtics need to rebound as a team with every Celtic battling on the boards. It will take a team effort to beat the Knicks, who are 5th in the league in rebounding with 46.1 per game. The Celtics are 2nd with 47.5 rebounds per game but tend to get lazy against physical teams that fight for rebounds. The Knicks are 4th in the league with 16.5 second chance points per game and so the Celtics need to crash the boards to prevent giving the Knicks extra points in this game.
No 3rd Quarter Let Down -The Celtics have a -2.4 net rating in 3rd quarters. That is 22nd in the league They have the best net rating in the first quarter (+25) but they go down from there with the 3rd quarter being their worst. They allowed the Pacers to go on a 17-3 run to begin the 3rd quarter and they never recovered. The Celtics have got to come out in the 3rd quarter with the same energy that they start the game.
Move the Ball Carefully - The Celtics need to move the ball and find teammates for the best shots available. They play their best when the ball is moving and they are finding the open man. They struggle when the ball sticks and players try to do too much and play iso ball. However, they need to make careful passes because the Knicks are 6th in the league with 18.7 points off turnovers per game and if the Celtics get sloppy, they will make them pay. The Celtics were 4th in turnover percentage over the first 12 games but are 26th since. They have to stay focused and take better care of the ball.
Home Game and Rest - The Celtics played in 3 straight home games before going to Indiana for the knock out round of the In Season Tournament. They have not played since Monday and won’t play again until Tuesday and so they should be well rested. The Knicks played on Tuesday but still have had plenty of rest. The Celtics need to continue to take advantage of home court while the Knicks will face a hostile crowd and an unfamiliar arena along with travel which will hopefully give the Celtics the edge.
Officiating - Officiating always has the potential to be an x-factor. Each officiating crew calls the game differently. Some refs call it tight and constantly call fouls while others let them play with few fouls called. 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. The Celtics can’t afford to allow the other team to go on playing while Celtics players are hanging back and complaining about calls.