Game Preview: Knicks at Celtics (Preseason)

BOSTON – When was the last time the Boston Celtics (2-4) had a home game against the New York Knicks (2-1) in the state of New York? Whatever the answer may be, it will change at 7:30 p.m. tonight when the C’s host the Knicks in Albany, N.Y.

Both teams have traveled to the capital of New York to play their second and final meeting of the preseason in the Times Union Center. The Knicks defeated Boston 98-95 one week ago in Hartford, Conn.

The Celtics team that will face off against New York this time around is much different than the one from a week ago. Doc Rivers has slowly taken the reins off of his players over the course of the past three games. He has cut his rotation down and increased the minutes logged by all of his starters.

That group includes Kevin Garnett, who played only 17 minutes against New York last week in Hartford. Garnett had a minimal impact on that game, accumulating just four points, five rebounds and one assist.

Boston has seen the real KG come forward since that date. He played 22 minutes Thursday night against Brooklyn and scored 14 points on an impressive 7-of-9 shooting. Garnett also pulled down four boards and dished out four assists.

It wasn’t a coincidence that the Celtics controlled the Nets from start to finish with Garnett and the rest of Boston’s core players seeing heightened playing time. The C’s led by double digits for nearly all of the contest and wound up winning by 30 points. Seven players, including all of the team’s starters, scored in double-figures.

In addition to Garnett returning to his customary form, Paul Pierce continued to excel for the third consecutive contest. He has averaged 21.0 PPG on 58 percent shooting over his past three games. Boston’s captain has been on fire from long range during that stretch, hitting a ridiculous 12 of his 14 attempts from 3-point range.

The Celtics have seen a resurgence in their performance over the past week but the Knicks have some talking to do of their own. They stand tall at 2-1 and have a deep roster that will also look different than the one that played against Boston last week. Amar’e Stoudemire is likely to play and Marcus Camby and Ronnie Brewer could return, though their respective situations are much more cloudy.

New York was able to knock the Celtics off last week because Rivers pulled his starters from the game midway through the second half. Don’t expect that to happen again tonight, even if the game is being played in the Knicks’ home state.

Do It Again

Thursday’s victory over the Nets was dominant, in every way, shape or form. The Celtics picked Brooklyn apart at both ends of the floor. They scored easily and made things incredibly difficult for the Nets’ offense.

The team we all saw during Thursday’s contest was exactly what Danny Ainge and Doc Rivers imagined when they put this roster together over the summer. They want to play shut-down defense, they want to run, and they want to shoot. They did all of the above in Brooklyn.

Will that happen again tonight? It sure won’t be easy. The Knicks have a defensive anchor in the paint and some very heady point guards running the offense. Still, though, Boston will aim to dominate New York in the same fashion that it dominated Brooklyn.

Green on Melo

Boston didn’t bring Jeff Green back this summer just to be a scorer off the bench. The organization truly believes that Green can be a difference maker on defense against the league’s most physical small forwards.

One of those small forwards is Carmelo Anthony, who possesses an unrivaled set of offensive skills. Green hasn’t yet learned how to defend Anthony, as Doc Rivers attested to after Boston’s loss to New York one week ago in Hartford, Conn.

“I thought he competed, but he allowed the catch too easy,” Rivers said of Green’s defense on Anthony. “’And when you’re guarding a Carmelo, you’ve got to make the catch tough for him. I thought Jeff decided to defend him after the catch.”

We’ll see if Green learned his lesson.

Does Darko Return?

Darko Milicic has missed the past two games with a sprained right hand/thumb. He has been taping the area up for about a week now and the pain was enough to make the C’s hold him out of the last two games.

If this were the regular season, we’d expect Milicic to return to the lineup for tonight’s game. However, this is the preseason and as Rivers has noted time and time again, all this team has its eyes on is Opening Night in Miami.

Milicic is this team’s backup center and has been an absolute force defensively. His return tonight would pay great dividends for the C’s, but the team may choose to hold him out for more rest.