Watch It! - Celtics at Knicks
Here are five things to watch out for when the Boston Celtics and New York Knicks meet at 12 p.m. Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden.
Who doesn’t love a great individual matchup? We’re going to have one on Sunday at the small forward position.
Jeff Green and Carmelo Anthony are set to go at it throughout this rivalry game. Green is Boston’s leading scorer with an average of 16.7 points per game, while Anthony leads the Knicks and ranks third in the NBA in scoring with 25.6 PPG.
Green and Anthony faced off during last season’s playoff series and it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Green outplayed the six-time All-Star. Anthony averaged 8.9 more PPG than Green did, but Green was the far more efficient scorer, all while providing great defense on Anthony.
There’s nothing that Green loves more than a premier matchup against a premier player. This matchup with the Knicks and Anthony certainly qualifies as such, and it will be one heck of a battle to watch.
New York has some pretty big names on its bench. There’s a six-time NBA All-Star (Amar’e Stoudemire), last season’s Sixth Man of the Year (J.R. Smith), and a guy who played a key role in Boston missing out on its 18th championship in 2010 (Metta World Peace).
All of that would make you think that the Knicks have the upper hand when it comes to bench play, but that’s certainly not the case. Boston’s bench, led by Gerald Wallace, Courtney Lee and Kris Humphries, leads New York’s bench in nearly every statistical category. The C’s bench scores more points (30.8 to 27.8), shoots more efficiently (44.8 percent to 41.7 percent) and holds a drastic advantage in rebounding (15.9 per game to 11.2 per game).
This is a game in which Boston’s reserves have the upper hand. The names on the jerseys may imply differently, but the stats never lie.
Knicks are Feeling Good
It’s no secret that the Knicks have been struggling this season. They are currently 13th in the Eastern Conference and at one point lost nine straight games. Over the past couple of games, however, New York has relocated its mojo.
The Knicks head into Sunday’s game riding a two-game winning streak that features an average margin of victory of 34 points per game. New York’s current streak accounts for the only stretch this season in which it has won consecutive games.
Two factors that have keyed New York’s mini surge are balance and elite play from Anthony. Six Knicks scored at least 11 points Thursday night, and seven scored in double-figures on Friday night. During this two-game stretch, Anthony has averaged 19.5 PPG while hitting 63.6 percent of his shots.
Defend the 3
It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that New York lives and dies by the 3. The team’s 3-point shooting splits are about as dramatic as they come.
The Knicks have shot the ball at an incredible rate during their five wins this season. They’ve taken an average of 26.8 treys during those five contests and hit 44.8 percent of them. New York has hit just 31.1 percent of its average of 25.5 3-pointers in its 13 losses.
Those numbers leave little doubt that New York’s chances of winning are tightly tied to its 3-point shooting. On the other hand, one of the keys to Boston’s success this season has been defending the 3. The C’s are second in the league in opponent 3-point percentage, limiting other teams to just 32.9 percent shooting from behind the arc.
Hit Big Shots
There’s something about this rivalry that fosters close games. Six of these teams' last eight regular season meetings have been decided by eight points or less, including one that went to overtime and three more that were decided by one possession.
Boston has survived many of those nailbiters thanks to the presence of former Celtics Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. Neither of those players, however, are with the team anymore.
With that fact in mind, the C’s will need someone else to step up and hit key shots in what is likely to be a close contest. A top option for that role may be Jordan Crawford, who has helped the Celtics fight off runs by other teams with critical buckets.
“That’s huge, to be able to withstand those runs and make plays that counter those with different people,” Brad Stevens said. “Jordan has made a bunch of big shots in those moments.”
And the C’s may need him to do more of that on Sunday.