Who: New York Knicks (3-0) vs. Boston Celtics (3-0)
Where: Madison Square Garden
When: Friday at 7:30 p.m. (TV: MSG)
New York puts its undefeated preseason record on the line tonight as the Atlantic-Division rival Celtics make their first trip of the season to the Garden. It should be a fun matchup between two 3-0 teams, both looking to improve on last year's win totals -- the Knicks (17) have clicked early following a sweeping summer roster makeover and Boston (40) is optimistic after winning 20 of 30 games post trade deadline and then holding its own against Cleveland in a first-round playoff sweep.
The Knicks are coming off a 94-88 win over Philadelphia on Monday at MSG, in which they outplayed the Sixers despite injuries to Kristaps Porzingis (strained left quad), Arron Afflalo (sore left hamstring) and Kevin Seraphin (sore right knee). Robin Lopez got the offense going early, pouring in 10 points in the game's first five minutes. Carmelo Anthony continued his torrid start to the year, finishing with 18 points on just 11 shots.
Derrick Williams led all scorers with 21 points (he has 44 in the last two games), showing offensive versatility with an array of jumpers and rim attacks that is encouraging for Derek Fisher's bench unit. New York continued to push tempo, an emphasis for the coaching staff in training camp, and is now outscoring its opponents, 52-29, in fastbreak points through three preseason contests.
Tonight marks the beginning of the Knicks' only back-to-back set this preseason. The team will fly to Charlotte after the game to take on the Hornets on Saturday night.
Afflalo returned to practice on Thursday and said hopes to play in both games, but he's unsure of how many minutes to expect. Before yesterday, he had not played or practiced since the team returned from training camp at West Point over a week ago.
Porzingis (strained left quad) and Kyle O'Quinn (recovery) did not practice on Thursday. Porzingis said he does not expect to play against Boston, but hopes to return for Saturday's game in Charlotte.
The Celtics are deep, with 11 proven rotation-caliber players at head coach Brad Stevens' disposal, and there is room to row; when you adjust for minutes played, the average age of Boston's nine returners average 23.8 years old.
They also have a handful of recently-drafted young players with upside that includes this year's first-round pick, Terry Rozier. The former Louisville guard is hoping to earn minutes in a backcourt mix that already features 2014 lottery pick Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley and Isaiah Thomas, who Danny Ainge acquired at the trade deadline to add scoring punch -- which he did.
Former Knick David Lee and Amir Johnson joined the club this summer, adding even more depth to a frontcourt of Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk and Tyler Zeller.