Some familiar faces will greet the Celtics tonight at TD Garden as they try to shake off their first loss of the season.
The Celtics already saw the New York Knicks during the preseason—once with new franchise player Amar’e Stoudemire and once with him in street clothes—so there should be no surprises tonight.
Here’s a few things to keep an eye on as the Celtics try to get back to their winning ways.
1) Amar’e Inside: While Kevin Garnett has enjoyed a strong start to the season, particularly on the glass, it has not been perfect. Facing two athletic small forwards who were easily quicker than him, Garnett had some trouble defending in the paint.
Now, if you look at Chris Bosh’s numbers from Tuesday night you might not think anything of this. But there were a few instances where Bosh easily maneuvered around Garnett and drove in for a bucket. J.J. Hickson also exploited Garnett’s lack of lateral movement and was the catalyst early on as the Cavs upset the Celtics in Cleveland.
Why am I harping on this? Well, if you think those two players are prototypical athletic forwards, you’ll see the standard tonight in Stoudemire. In fact, during the Heat game I found myself wondering if Miami would have been better off pursuing the former Suns star instead of Bosh (the answer: yes. When that team has no inside presence it will wish it had used the money elsewhere. Nothing against Bosh, but like Garnett he doesn’t relish playing in the post).
I think it’s safe to say the Celtics will offer Garnett some help in handling Stoudemire inside, and he will surely be the focus of their defensive game plan. But keep an eye out for how KG defends him in one-on-one situations.
2) Turnover Troubles: As I’ve said before, I’ve come to accept that the Celtics will have a high turnover number every game. I couldn’t explain it though, at least not as well as SI’s (and former Celtic blogger extraordinare) Zach Lowe can.
The turnovers are more a concern when they create easy opportunities for a team like Cleveland to run. The Heat took advantage of the Celtics miscues and climbed back into the game by converting off of them. If the Celtics turn the ball over by trying to be aggressive, that is one thing. But some of the careless mistakes that they have made in the first two games need to be corrected.
3) Bench Matchup: The Knicks decided to bring Wilson Chandler off the bench and start rookie Landry Fields in their opener Wednesday night against the Toronto Raptors. How did Chandler respond? By dropping in a team-high 22 points and adding eight boards, two assists and two blocks to his gaudy stat line as the Knicks opened their campaign with a “W.”
Every team needs some firepower off the bench, so I can’t fault Mike D’Antoni for the move. I can, however, point to the fact that outside of the Chandler the Knicks basically have no bench. D’Antoni did play 10 guys in the opener, but Roger Mason and former Celtic Bill Walker combined for 17 minutes. In the frontcourt the options are pretty slim—Ronny Turiaf is the only big man, while Chandler is a natural small forward.
The Celtics should dominate this game if the two second units match up, but not everyone on the Celtics bench has carried their game over from the preseason. Nate Robinson’s shot has disappeared with the lack of big minutes and Jermaine O’Neal’s game has been ugly, particularly against the Cavs. But with Glen Davis and Marquis Daniels playing solid ball early, expect the Celtics bench to continue to contribute the roughly 25 points a game it has added in the first two contests.