Is Boston’s two game win streak against likely playoff teams a fluke, or proof of a turn around? The Celtics (16-17) will attempt to make it the latter with another win tonight against the New York Knicks.
New York currently holds the second seed in the Eastern Conference with a 23-10 record. While the Knick’s defense has improved under Mike Woodson, offense still remains their calling card. New York averages 102.5 points per game, ranking sixth in the NBA.
The Knicks offense is led by Carmelo Anthony, who has been brilliant thus far. His 29.3 ppg is the second highest mark in the NBA, only behind Kobe Bryant.
Defense has played a major part in the Celtics brief resurgence. They held the Hawks to 81 points and Pacers to 75. The most overwhelming factor in the improved defense has been the return of Avery Bradley. His ball pressure has caused opponents havoc, and should cause Jason Kidd fits tonight.
Bradley’s counterpart in the backcourt, Rajon Rondo, is coming off a triple-double against the Hawks. He could have another one tonight. Against the Knicks last year, he averaged 17.3 points, 13.3 assists, and 8.3 rebounds. That includes a game in which Rondo torched the Knicks for 18 points, 17 rebounds and 20 assists in an overtime victory for Boston.
Celtics fans will hope for a similar result tonight, pushing Boston back to .500.
Keys to the Game:
- Defend the three-point line. The Knicks average 11.3 made threes per game. Boston cannot allow New York to get hot from deep, or they will find themselves down quickly.
- Keep Carmelo Anthony off the free-throw line. Anthony is going to score no matter what a defense does, but he can’t be allowed to get easy ones at the charity stripe. Make him take contested perimeter shots. At least try to.
- Need to get production from the bench. The Knicks have one of the better benches in the NBA, bolstered by J.R. Smith who averages 16.7 ppg. Amare Stoudemire has also returned. Jeff Green, Jason Terry, Courtney Lee and Jared Sullinger all need to make some contribution.
- Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley need to pressure the ball consistently. With Raymond Felton out, the Knicks are short a ball handler. Jason Kidd is 39-years-old and could get worn down from constant pressure. It will also slow down the Knicks offense, forcing them to play in the halfcourt.