2/24 Game Preview: Celtics at Knicks
The New York Knicks picked up their defensive tenacity late against Orlando Magic on Thursday, resulting in a victory.
Managing that against Orlando -- tied with five other teams with the fewest wins (18) this season -- is one thing, but that will likely not fly against visiting Boston on Saturday and against Golden State in the following game Monday.
Orlando had 69 points by halftime before the Knicks (24-36) put the clamps on the Magic, limiting them to only 43 points in the second half of a 120-113 victory.
Now comes Boston, which has the second-best record in the Eastern Conference at 41-19.
"They're going to be tough," said Knicks forward Kyle O'Quinn said. "Obviously, Boston and Golden State are two much different teams than an Orlando Magic team who has good guys.
"They present some challenges. They have dynamic bigs that are pretty good. Both have All-Star caliber players that I think if we go out there play as hard as we can and believe in ourselves we'll give ourselves a chance like we did in Orlando."
Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek was complimentary of the defense played by guards Trey Burke and Frank Ntilikina against Orlando in the second half. Ntilikina had two blocks and a steal. Forward Lance Thomas was also given credit by Hornacek because of his ability to guard multiple positions.
"He's kind of that guy, it doesn't matter if he's on the one, two, three or four," Hornacek said. "When he's at the four spot, then we also have the ability to switch some too because you're not afraid of Lance switching off on a point guard so I think guys have more confidence that when things come together, hey we can just switch it."
The Knicks beat the Celtics, 102-93, on Dec. 21 despite Boston guard Kyrie Irving scoring 32 points. Hornacek said he is not certain whether he will play Burke, Ntilikina or Emmanuel Mudiay against Irving.
Mudiay, who was acquired in a three-way trade from Denver on Feb. 8, started his first game with the Knicks against Orlando and finished with eight points, four assists and five rebounds in 23 minutes.
"It's not just, 'Hey that guy's got to guard Kyrie.' You've got to have a team defense that's there to back him up when Kyrie gets around. So again, they'll probably all end up with a shot at him at some point," Hornacek said.
One of Boston coach Brad Stevens' primary concerns is the status of post player Aron Baynes, who is a game-time decision after suffering a left elbow strain Friday in the Celtics' 110-98 win at Detroit. He left the game early in the first quarter and never returned.
"I don't know exactly what it was," said Stevens. "He's feeling a little bit better. They have not ruled him out for (Saturday). But they said he's going to be sore."
If Baynes can't play against the Knicks, center Daniel Theis, who scored a career-high 19 points against Detroit, could be the starter.
Other Boston personnel matters: Guard Shane Larkin, who missed his 10th straight game Friday, could return against the Knicks and guard Marcus Smart is back and strong following a month-long absence because of injuries to score 12 points against Detroit.
"The hand felt good," Smart said after the Detroit game. "The thigh felt good. Obviously, we did a good job and we didn't have to play that many minutes."