Celtics Foresee Great Challenge in New York
WALTHAM, Mass. – They may be 5-13, they may be fourth in the Atlantic Division, and they may be 13th in the Eastern Conference, but the New York Knicks aren’t flying under the Boston Celtics’ radar.
Boston boarded its flight to New York on Saturday knowing full well that Sunday’s matchup with the Knicks will be no cakewalk. The Knicks, who have won two consecutive games by an average of 34 points, have looked nothing like the team that began the season with a 3-13 record and recently lost nine straight games. Instead, they have looked like a championship contender.
“The last two games have not been close,” Brad Stevens said on Saturday as he discussed New York’s team, “and they have looked every bit the Knicks that everybody expected, and then some.”
And then… a lot.
The Knicks traveled across town to Brooklyn Thursday night and clobbered their crosstown rivals by 30 points. On that night, the Knicks shot a whopping 57.1 percent from the field while limiting the Nets to an ugly 39.7 percent shooting performance. The final score was 113-83.
One night later, the Orlando Magic paid a visit to Madison Square Garden. Yet again, a dismantling was in store.
New York doubled up Orlando in the scoring column in the third quarter (30-15) and more than doubled up the Magic in the fourth quarter (32-14). The Knicks outscored the Magic 93-52 over the final three frames of the contest. Final score: 121-83.
Stevens has been blessed with the opportunity of preparing for this red-hot Knicks team. He took a look at the film of the past two games and came away impressed by New York’s play at both ends of the court.
“The way that they’ve shot the 3, the way that they’ve moved the ball, the way that they’re guarding with activity and aggressiveness, has been very impressive,” Stevens said. “They’re really good.”
For their part, so are the Celtics. New York isn’t the only team that will bring a two-game winning streak into Sunday’s matinee matchup. Boston will, too.
The Celtics have not only dropped an average of 107 points while beating their last two opponents, they’ve also won five out of their last seven games. Boston is the team that just took down a surging Nuggets team and sits atop the Atlantic Division standings.
Continuing that impressive stretch of play on Sunday will be a hefty challenge for the Celtics. This Knicks team is loaded with talent, headlined by the NBA’s reigning scoring champion, Carmelo Anthony.
As one may surmise, Anthony has been the key cog in New York’s resurgence. He racked up impressive averages of 19.5 points per game, 10.5 rebounds per game and 5.0 assists per game during those two contests. He also shot 63.6 percent from the field and made 10 of his 11 free throws, making it obvious that his scoring average would be even higher had he played more than 30 minutes per game.
So how do the Celtics slow him down? Stevens said that the Celtics will need to use multiple defenders on Anthony throughout the night. It sounds as if Stevens is also resigned to regularly using double-teams and traps on Anthony.
One of the Celtics who is sure to be involved in those schemes is Gerald Wallace. Wallace has battled with Anthony for the better part of a decade. On Saturday, he explained the mindset one has to have in order to contain the All-Star forward.
“You’ve got to know you can’t relax,” Wallace said. “Probably 80 percent of their plays or 90 percent of their plays are for him, and he can shoot it at any time during the play. Other guys get their offense off of him, so he’s going to be the focal point of their team. So you’ve just got to be focused.”
Wallace, Jeff Green and Brandon Bass will need to be focused in order to slow Anthony down, but the Celtics will need the rest of their team to be focused as well. This is a rivalry game between a Celtics team that has won five of seven and a Knicks team that has been a dominant force in recent games.
Do yourself a favor and throw these teams’ records out the window before Sunday's matchup. The Celtics already have.