Game Preview: Celtics at Knicks

Make your picks now in Celtics 3-Point Play

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics (16-17) will play against a top-four Eastern Conference team tonight for the third time in four days. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m. in Madison Square Garden against the New York Knicks (23-10), who are currently atop the Atlantic Division.

Both the Celtics and the Knicks are in the midst of two-game winning streaks. Boston is riding high after monumental victories over the Pacers on Friday and the Hawks on Saturday. New York, meanwhile, grabbed a big win over the Spurs Thursday night and then rallied to down the Magic 114-106 Saturday night in Orlando.

Boston’s mini streak has been fueled by some phenomenal defense. The Pacers and Hawks combined to average just 78.0 points and 36.5 percent shooting from the field against the C’s over the weekend.

“We’ve played the way we wanted to six out of the last eight quarters,” Doc Rivers said after Saturday’s win in Atlanta. “I look at that as progress for us defensively.”

Believe it or not, delivering stellar play in six out of eight quarters may be the most consistent the Celtics have been all season. Paul Pierce stated Saturday night that the time is now to maintain that recent consistency.

“I’m tired of seeing flashes of it for six minutes here or there, and then take six minutes off. I’m tired of that now,” Pierce said. “I don’t have too much left in the tank as far as my career, so this is it. I feel like the East is wide open, so there is a tremendous opportunity out there for us.”

New York would beg to differ with that assessment. The Knicks have been hot all season long and are one of the top teams in the league. Their 23-10 record is just a half-game behind Miami for the top seed in the conference.

Pierce, Melo

Paul Pierce will be tasked with the challenge of slowing down Carmelo Anthony, who may be the league's MVP at this point in the season.
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images

This Knicks team is very old but it is deep with talent. Four players average at least 12.8 PPG, led by Carmelo Anthony’s 29.3 points a night. Anthony’s mark is second in the league and he is shooting a career-best 43.5 percent from downtown. Tyson Chandler leads New York’s rebounding effort with an average of 10.3 boards a game, while Raymond Felton (6.3 APG) and Jason Kidd (4.2 APG) have orchestrated the offense.

That depth has overwhelmed the majority of the NBA this season, including some of the league’s best teams. New York has already beaten loaded rosters like the Heat, Spurs and Nets twice each this season. The Knicks’ record is not a farce. They are the real deal.

Boston has proven over the past two games that it has the potential to be a legitimate contender as well. It recorded two significant wins this weekend and will look to continue that momentum against the Knicks tonight.

Knicks’ Twin Towers

Felton is out with a fractured finger and as a result, Knicks head coach Mike Woodson has decided to employ a Twin Towers look in New York. Chandler and Marcus Camby, both of whom are essentially 7-footers, have started in the frontcourt for the past two games. Anthony has thus slid back to his more natural position of small forward.

This change would be an enormous issue for the Celtics if Chandler and Camby were both offensive forces. However, the fact that both of them score the majority of their points on dunks and putbacks makes life a bit easier. Still, though, Boston’s smaller frontline of Kevin Garnett and Brandon Bass will have its hands full in regard to grabbing rebounds.

Containing Anthony

Anthony may be the league’s MVP at this point of the season. He is easily playing the best overall basketball of his career while shooting lights-out from the perimeter.

There are two players on Boston’s roster who will be tasked with the challenge of containing this incredible player. Pierce will get the call to start the game, and Jeff Green will defend Anthony while Pierce is on the bench. The key to defending Anthony is to make life difficult for him. Sometimes it doesn’t even work when his shot is perfectly challenged, but one thing Boston cannot allow Anthony to do is score easily.

Winning Without Rondo

Rajon Rondo has been suspended by the NBA for making contact with an official during Saturday night’s game in Atlanta. Felton is out for New York with a broken finger, which means that both teams will be playing without their starting point guard.

The good news for Boston is that they’ve been here before this season. The C’s have played four games without Rondo due to injuries and suspensions. They have gone 1-3 in those games, but the fact that they’ve been in this position certainly helps. It also helps that Rivers has an extra guard available this time around with Avery Bradley. The coach will be able to maintain his rotation with Jason Terry coming off of the bench if he elects to start Courtney Lee alongside Bradley. If that happens, Boston’s offense will surely take a hit, but the defense should be able to keep up its recent solid play.