Game Preview: Knicks at Celtics

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics (0-3) and New York Knicks (1-1) will meet for the second time in four days when they face off at 7:30 p.m. Saturday night in Manchester, N.H. Each team will use this contest as one of their greatest preps for what’s to come during the regular season.

No team in the NBA likes to play on consecutive nights, but every team has to. Both of these teams will be doing so when they take the court tonight, as the Celtics fell 97-85 to the Sixers last night in Newark, Del. while the Knicks fell 100-91 in Toronto.

Tonight’s game will help the players adjust to playing on consecutive nights, but it may be even more important to Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. Stevens did not have to deal with back-to-backs during his collegiate coaching career. This will be his first opportunity to prepare for games on consecutive nights in the NBA. With that in mind, Stevens admits that he’ll need his coaching staff to guide him along.

“It’s going to be tough,” Stevens said of dealing with back-to-backs, particularly the ones that loom in November. “I’ve got to do a great job of leaning on the guys who have been there to help prepare.”

Luckily for Stevens and his staff, the level of preparation needed for this game is relatively low. These two teams just met Wednesday night in Providence, R.I., where the Knicks pulled off a 103-102 victory.

New York played all five of its starters between 18 and 22 minutes, but its top player came off of the bench. Iman Shumpert was unstoppable, as he scored a game-high 18 points on a perfect 7-of-7 night from the field.

Shumpert’s performance was a big reason why the Knicks pulled ahead by as many as 23 points during the fourth quarter. However, it wasn’t enough to put the Celtics to sleep.

Boston made a dramatic fourth-quarter comeback that was led by Phil Pressey and Chris Babb. Pressey totaled eight points, four assists, two rebounds and two steals during the fourth quarter alone. He assisted on 11 of the team’s 37 points in the fourth, including two of Babb’s four 3-pointers. Babb scored 12 points in the final period.

Pressey hit a running, left-handed floater off of the glass to put the Celtics on top 102-101 with 22.4 seconds remaining in the game. However, the Knicks answered right back with a baseline jumper from Tim Hardaway, Jr. with 8.2 seconds left on the clock. Boston was unable to answer that bucket and New York walked out of the Dunkin’ Donuts Center with the win.

We shouldn’t expect to see an incredible fourth-quarter comeback during this contest, nor should we expect to see each teams’ best players. Stevens and Mike Woodson are likely to ease their key players into their first back-to-back, either by limiting their minutes or not playing them at all.

Regardless of who participates in this game, we’re almost certain to have an entertaining contest on our hands. Keep in mind that the most exciting part of Wednesday’s game was played by the reserves. We’ll see if those players can duplicate that effort tonight, all while the Celtics shoot for their first win and the Knicks look to go 2-0 against Boston.