Knicks-Celtics: What to Watch For

The Celtics and Knicks seem to be headed in opposite directions right now. Led by Jeremy Lin, the Knicks look to make a run towards the playoffs. Given their age and lack of depth, the Celtics seem keen on blowing up the team and rebuilding. However, the Knicks never play well against Boston.

Can you remember the last time the Knicks won in Boston? I can’t.

This is a huge game for the Knicks. At 18-18, the Knicks look to get back over .500 and win in Boston for the first time since 2006. While Linsanity has been awesome, the Knicks still have a lot of work to do. Their 71 point second half performance against Cleveland on Wednesday was a good start but the Knicks must continue to take steps in the right direction. At 1 pm Sunday, the Knicks have an opportunity to take a big step forward. A victory would not only start a winning streak and stick the Knicks over .500 but it would show the evolution of a team.

On opening day, the Knicks beat a Paul Pierce-less Celtic team 106-104 at the Garden. Last month, the Knicks lost 91-89 in a heartbreaker in Boston. New York must prove that this is a different Knicks team. Sure they are much improved from a month ago but a loss on Sunday would be detrimental. This is a Boston team that has owned the Knicks for years. A Sunday victory would be another step in showing the NBA world that this is a new Knicks team. I know Boston has struggled but they still have Rondo and the Big 3. This is a huge game for New York. I think they’ll play well. It should be fun to watch.

Here’s what to watch for:

  • Point guard vs Point guard. Rajon Rondo is one of the quickest, most explosive point guards in the league. He is an elite defensive point guard. Jeremy Lin will have his hands full on both ends of the floor. During his stint as Knicks starting point guard (DRINK), Toney Douglas flailed like a level 5 Magikarp when trying to slow down Rondo in transition. It will be interesting to see how Lin does defending the Celtic point guard when he gets in the open court off turnovers or missed shots. I think offensively, Lin will need to keep his dribble. Rondo’s length and quickness could give him problems. I expect Rondo to come out fired up to shut down Linsanity. I think this may be a tough matchup for Lin but I do expect him to make adjustments throughout the game and play well.
  • New York’s bench vs Boston’s bench. I will be shocked if the Knicks bench is outplayed by Boston’s bench. I understand that Boston is a good defensive team and could potentially give JR, Baron and Novak some problems but the Knick bench is far more talented than that of the Celtics. Keyon Dooling, Chris Wilcox and Brandon Bass are the Celtics main cogs coming off the pine. Fortunately for the Knicks, Brandon Bass will not play in the game. He is out with a knee injury. That leaves Chris Wilcox. Wilcox’s effort and rebounding killed the Knicks last month in Boston. The Knick front court (THAT MEANS YOU AMAR’E STOUDEMIRE) will have to keep Wilcox off the boards on Sunday. If he is allowed to change the game with offensive rebounds, there is a good chance that Boston will win the game. In terms of bench wing players, the Knicks should have a huge advantage. JR Smith, Novak and Shumpert are far better than Sasha Pavolvic, Mickael Pietrus and Avery Bradley. I expect the Knicks to win the wing matchup and I think they’ll keep Wilcox and Bass off the boards.
  • What will the Knicks get from Black Jesus? Baron Davis played very well in Wednesday’s victory over LeBron James Kryie Irving and the Cavs. Davis recorded 8 assists in 14 minutes and sparked the second team to dominate the second half. If the Knicks can get a similar performance from Davis on Sunday, they will most likely take this game. The Knicks bench will have to make the difference in this game. Boston’s starters match up well with the Knicks. Their bench does not. New York needs consistent scoring from the bench and Davis will likely be the catalyst for any sort of success that they have. I hope to see a few of these tomorrow:
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pxplDGO-554&feature=related]
  • Carmelo Anthony should dominate. Paul Pierce is not what he used to be and Melo usually plays well against him. I loved his stat line from last game. 9/16 for 22 points and 5 rebounds. While I love how he played, I still believe the Knicks must run more offense through Anthony. He is the best pure scorer in the league and I would like the Knicks to get the ball in his hands a bit more than they did on Wednesday. I understand that it is a point guard oriented system and Lin is really the guy running the show. I get it. That being said, Melo was open in the post a few times on Wednesday and the Knicks didn’t get him the ball. When Anthony has a post up situation, he should get the ball almost every time. Anthony has shot an astounding 51% in the post this season, despite the fact that he has been banged up and out of rhythm all year. I love ball movement and I love the unselfish play of the Knicks but Anthony is a scorer. He is the most versatile scorer in the league. The Knicks need to find a way to get him the ball down low a bit more than they did on Wednesday.
  • What is Landry Fields role in this game? Fields obviously was horrible in last years playoffs versus Boston. I thought he played fine defensively in the two match ups against Boston this year but JR Smith was not on the team in those two games. Iman Shumpert was also playing point guard. Now, Smith is the Knicks new sixth man and Shumpert no longer has to play point guard. I will not be surprised if Fields plays less than 15 minutes in this game. His defense is not as good as Shumpert’s and obviously his offense is no where close that of JR Smith. I love Fields but Boston is not a good matchup for him. I would much rather have Shumpert or Smith chasing Ray Allen around the court through screens and both players are better offensively than Fields. At least Fields is probably the best singer of the three players.
  • Knicks have to shoot well. For all of Boston’s shortcomings, they lead the league in opponent 3 point percentage. New York has lived and died, often they have died, on the 3 ball at times this year. I think this is a game where the Knicks can dominate inside but they will shoot a good amount of 3′s. Steve Novak and JR Smith have to find a way to be efficient from downtown on Sunday. The Knicks cannot afford to shoot 3/24 from downtown. Boston’s perimeter defense is very good and the Knicks will have to shoot well in order to win.
  • I wonder which Kevin Garnett we will get tomorrow. Here are your options:
  1. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2wsSvIj9jes]
  2. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Erqg1ZLt_VA]
  3. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7pTiEkfQ6pk]
  • I think we’ll get Kevin Garnett #1. I think the NBA’s resident fake “tough guy” will be nut-huntin tomorrow. If I were Jeremy Lin I would be rocking some genital protection tomorrow knowing that Mr. Garnett is on the prowl. In fact, all Knicks shooters should be wearing cups tomorrow. Garnett has never hesitated to give opponents the ol “cup check” and I don’t expect tomorrow to be any different. 
  • Here’s a picture of Amar’e bowling. Do with it what you will.
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