The New York Knicks (45-26) may be the hottest team in the NBA right now, winning seven consecutive games. One of those wins came at the expense of the Celtics (38-34), as New York defeated Boston 100-85 on Tuesday.
Boston can hand the Knicks some payback by ending New York’s win streak on their own home-court. For The Celtics to win this game though, they will have to slow down J.R. Smith. Smith scored 32 points against Boston in Tuesday’s game, and has averaged 34.7 points per game in his last three outings.
The Celtics will be without Kevin Garnett tonight, who will miss his fifth consecutive game, but Boston will have Courtney Lee’s services available. Lee returned in Friday’s game against the Hawks, seeing just six minutes, but is expected to see more time tonight. He had missed the previous three games with an ankle sprain.
Lee’s defense could play a large role in containing Smith. Any team that faces the Knicks also has to deal with the problem that is Carmelo Anthony. He is the NBA’s second leading scorer, and scored 29 against the Celtics in their last meeting.
With the plethora of offensive options for New York, Boston will need offensive contributions from several sources. Jason Terry scored 24 points on Friday night, his largest output since Feb. 10 against the Nuggets. Getting Jason Terry going again would provide some relief for Paul Pierce, who has carried Boston since Garnett’s injury.
Friday was no different as Pierce recorded a triple-double with 20 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds. It was Pierce’s third triple-double of the season.
Normally 10 rebounds would make Pierce the Celtics’ leading rebounder for a game. Boston averages the second fewest rebounds in the league, but it was Shavlik Randolph’s 13 rebounds that led the Celtics on Friday.
Randolph’s strong performance on the glass should earn him another chance at playing significant minutes tonight. With Garnett out for at least another week, Randolph could earn himself a spot in the playoff rotation if he continues to rebound consistently.
With Boston three games ahead of Milwaukee for the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference, a win against New York would continue to put a comfortable distance between the two squads.