Jayson Tatum vs. Knicks defenders
Part of the reason why the Knicks matchup so well with the Celtics is their ability to throw a variety of different defenders at Boston’s star wings. With the likes of defenders like RJ Barrett, Josh Hart, and even Julius Randle at their disposal, Thibodeau does his best to give different looks to Jayson Tatum in an attempt to slow down the Celtics star.
While New York has found some success in that approach in the past, Tatum has continuously developed as a playmaker and now poses more of a threat offensively than he has in seasons prior. And that’s saying a lot. With the talent surrounding JT, the offense for Tatum will likely continue to open up, and if he can take what the Knicks defense gives him and create for himself and others, a versatile forward could dictate the outcome of the game on his own.
Although Tatum’s game won’t be the only factor in the opening-night battle, seeing the Duke alum find success offensively will put Boston in a position to succeed early.
Jalen Brunson vs. Derrick White
Just as Tatum can put his imprint on a game through the offense, Jalen Brunson can do the same. The Villanova product has developed into one of the best playmaking guards in the league. Brunson can get to the free throw line, create his own shot, and put his teammates in position to succeed whether his shot is falling or not.
After Marcus Smart’s departure in the offseason, Derrick White and Jrue Holiday will now take on the primary duties as the team’s main perimeter defenders. And while Smart was undeniably the heart and soul of this Celtics team, it’s more than debatable that White was better defensively last season than Smart, even making an All-NBA defensive team last season.
If the Celtics want to steal a win on the road, it starts with White limiting Brunson offensively. If he can do that, the rest of Boston’s defense will be put in a position to succeed. If the C’s can disrupt the Knicks offense running through their point guard, the Celtics chances to leave Madison Square Garden with a victory only increase.
Joe Mazzulla vs. Tom Thibodeau
Joe Mazzulla is known as one of the brightest offensive-minded coaches in the league, while Tom Thibodeau is considered one of the top defensive coaches in the league. With that being said, Mazzulla’s love for putting the basketball through the hoop and Thibs love for disrupting the opposing team’s offense should make for an interesting matchup. While each team’s stars can definitely leave their will on a game, the coaching battle will be just as vital as the team’s on-court matchups.
At the end of the day, both teams are going to come out swinging in their own ways, but whichever coach can make the correct adjustments during the game will likely lead their team to a 1-0 record by the end of the night.