Watch It! - Celtics at Knicks
Here are five things to watch out for when the Boston Celtics and New York Knicks meet at 7:30 p.m. tonight at Madison Square Garden.
Knicks Trending Up
Don’t look now, but the New York Knicks are starting to catch a groove. That’s at least what their recent stretch of play would indicate.
New York enters tonight’s action having won five of its last seven games, which, believe it or not, doubled the team’s win total on the season. Of the teams the Knicks defeated during that stretch, only New Orleans owns a winning record, but as we all know, wins are wins in the NBA.
Brad Stevens always says that his team isn’t good enough to take any games lightly. Such remains the case tonight, even against a 10-win Knicks club. New York has been playing at a much higher level over the past two weeks than its record would indicate.
Smart To Start?
Stevens shook up Boston’s lineup Sunday afternoon against the Miami Heat. Tyler Zeller was inserted into the starting lineup in place of Jared Sullinger, which we expect to be a temporary change. The other lineup change may be more of a long-term thing.
Marcus Smart started the second half in place of Evan Turner. Though Turner has played well for the C’s since Rajon Rondo was dealt to Dallas, Stevens felt the need to get his rookie in there to provide an energy lift.
“The one thing with Marcus is he’s going to give you juice – lots of juice,” the coach stated after the game.
Stevens did not reveal whether Smart’s time with the starters would be a permanent change. We may have to wait until tonight’s tip-off to see if such is the case.
Melo’s Manning Up
Remember all of those rumors about Carmelo Anthony shutting it down for the year due to knee pain? Yeah, he’s putting those to rest (for now).
Anthony has been sizzling since his return from a six-game absence. He has averaged 26.0 points per game while shooting 44.8 percent from long range over his last seven contests.
As always, Boston will have its hands full tonight with Anthony on the court. This will be the first time the C’s won’t have Jeff Green to defend Anthony. The challenge will now fall on the shoulders of Jae Crowder, Gerald Wallace, Tayshaun Prince and Brandon Bass.
The Celtics may need to make up for some of the points their second-leading scorer typically provides. Avery Bradley, who is averaging 13.1 points per game this season, revealed after Sunday’s game that he suffered a small fracture to his left thumb.
There is no doubt that Bradley’s pain threshold is extremely high. He has played through pain throughout his tenure with Boston, most notably a left shoulder separation that continued over and over during the 2012 postseason. Bradley stated that he plans to play tonight against New York.
The question does not seem to be whether or not Bradley will be on the court, but instead, how much will he provide while he’s out there? This is an injury to his non-shooting hand, so his shot should be unaffected. Still, though, any fracture to a hand or finger is a major hindrance in the game of basketball.
Wake-Up Call for the Offense?
It’s no secret that Boston’s offense has been struggling since the new year. It is shooting just 42.8 percent from the field since Jan. 1, ranking seventh-worst in the league.
There may be a remedy on its way tonight, in the form of New York’s defense.
The Knicks own one of the worst defenses in the league. They have the sixth-worst opponent field goal percentage (45.8 percent) this season and are giving up an average of 100.2 points per game.
Boston’s offense has been sleeping for the majority of 2015. Tonight may be the night for it to wake up.