by Jonah Ballow

8:00 PM ET | Madison Square Garden
Radio: ESPN 98.7 FM

1.  In the second quarter of Monday’s contest, the Hornets created significant separation from the Knicks and eventually captured a 109-91 victory.  Charlotte outscored New York 31-19 in the game-changing second frame while the road team struggled to shoot from the floor.  The Knicks were fresh off an emotional Saturday night win over the Thunder and were shorthanded once again without their leading scorer in the lineup. New York currently holds the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference with a 16-14 overall record.    

2.  Kristaps Porzingis expressed optimism regarding his potential return to the floor tonight against the Celtics.  The Knicks big man exited Thursday’s contest in Brooklyn with a sore left knee and did not return.  He did not suit up for Saturday’s tilt against the Thunder and was sidelined on Monday night in Charlotte.  At Wednesday’s practice session at MSG Training Center, Porzingis was a full participant and he told reporters that he’s close to full health.  Porzingis is averaging a career-best 25.5 points and 2.1 blocks per game this season.

3.  Enes Kanter marches into tonight’s game with 12 double-doubles this year.  The 25-year old accumulated 18 double-doubles during the entire 2016-17 campaign.  His impact on the floor for the Knicks has been invaluable.  Kanter leads the team in rebounds per game (9.8) and field goal percentage at 60.3 percent.  New York fans can vote for Kanter, Porzingis, and Tim Hardaway Jr. today for the 2018 NBA All-Star game.  Head to to cast your early ballot for the marquee game.

4.  The Celtics defeated the Knicks in the first meeting on October 24, 110-89.  Kanter scored 16 points and hauled down a game-high 19 boards for the orange and blue.  On the other side, Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, and Jayson Tatum combined for 65 points in the home victory.  The loss sparked New York to a quick turnaround as the team reeled off three straight wins following the contest, including a victory over the Cavaliers in Cleveland.  The Knicks are 16-11 since the defeat and they are brimming with confidence at Madison Square Garden with a 14-5 mark.  Boston won 16 straight games during a stretch that lasted from late October to late November.  However, the Celtics are in a bit of slump with a 4-4 record over their last eight games and a loss to Miami last night.

5.  Following the defeat to the Heat, Boston dropped to 26-8 on the season and fell behind Houston and Golden State for the best record in the league (26-8).  Despite the recent dip, the Celtics are an elite team, ranking in the top five in defensive and offensive rating.  One area to examine in this contest is the battle on the glass and second chance points.  New York has exploited teams with its ability to accumulate offensive rebounds and create multiple scoring opportunities.  Boston ranks 22nd in second chance points while the Knicks are the fourth-best team in this category in the NBA.