Boston: 109.3 points/100 possessions (9th)
New York: 111.6 points/100 possessions (6th)
Boston: 98.7 points allowed/100 possessions (1st)
New York: 109.6 points allowed/100 possessions (22nd)
Probable New York starters: Raymond Felton (PG), Landry Fields (SG), Wilson Chandler (SF), Danillo Galinari (F), Amare Stoudemire (C)
View from opposing bench: Knickerblogger
Thumbnail: Major media outlets are billing tonight’s game as a “rivalry game” and I am left wondering why. Make no mistake, I mean no hubris. But calling tonight’s game a “rivalry game” seems a bit premature. It’s like crowning the Heat the 2011 NBA Champions. The Knicks have improved this season, that is for sure. That said, the only tangible evidence to support this “rivalry” notion is the Knicks’ current eight-game winning streak. If you didn’t catch the italics, let me flesh this win streak out for you:
During this eight game win streak, the following teams have succumbed to the superior basketball skill of the Atlantic Division runner-ups : Pistons (2OT), Raptors (twice), Nets, Timberwolves, Hornets (losers of 9 of their last 12), Wizards, and Nuggets. What do 6 out of those 8 teams have in common? If you said they all end in “s”, you’d be right (also all sub-.500 teams). You could actually argue that the Knicks only have one truly quality win this season (against the Chicago Bulls on November 4th).
None of this explanation is an argument in favor of the Celtics taking the Knicks lightly. I think tonight should be a really good game (especially considering the fact that Shaquille O’Neal is not playing). I just believe calling this a “rivalry game” is a gross abuse of poetic license. Oh and Paul Pierce and Amar’e Stoudemire both agree with me.
WHAT THE KNICKS DO WELL
Put the ball in the basket. This team is on a eight game winning streak and their defense isn’t the reason why. They are a top 5 offensive team thanks to their ability to shoot the ball efficiently (3rd) and get to the free throw line (4th). Amar’e Stoudemire is obviously the ring leader in this department but Danilo Gallinari has been sneaky good as well in getting to the charity stripe nearly six times a game. Plus he hits 90 percent of their shots, which helps.
Shoot a lot of 3′s. They don’t always make them but the quantity of them make up for it usually as the Knicks lead the league in attempts with 617. They are only in the middle of the pack in shooting them but they do have an arsenal of gunners who can fire it up there in any situation. The C’s will have to be ready to close out tonight on them.
WHAT THE KNICKS DO POORLY
Defend. They are not as bad as they use to be, but are still in the bottom third of the league on the defensive end. There isn’t one thing within the defensive four factors they do particularly poorly, but that’s not really impressive considering there’s nothing they do particularly well either. All things considered, it’s a team of which any capable offensive team should take advantage.
Rebound. That’s what you get when you go small and jack up a lot of 3′s, there’s no one there to clean up the mess. Given the fact that the C’s lack bigs of their own tonight, this weakness will not be as exploited as it could be.
PLAYERS WHO MAKE ME WORRY
Landry Fields. Only because it’s utterly pointless to write about Amar’e Stoudemire. Everyone knows what Amar’e can do–score in bunches, over-power you, dunk on your face, draw fouls, play very little defense– but not everyone has heard of Fields. The rookie has kept up his consistent high-energy play which has caused a lot of people to take notice. I mentioned this before the teams’ first meeting, but it bears repeating: Fields is Anderson Varejao in a SG/SF’s body.
Raymond Felton. Dude has been tearing it up lately, averaging 20 points and 10 assists over his last ten games (HoopData.com). Obviously, Felton isn’t projected to be as good against Rajon Rondo. Rondo is a top flight point guard known for his defense (among other things). Celtics fans’ are also well aware that Rondo makes it his personal mission each game to outplay the opposing point guard–especially those that have garnered recongnition nationally. Count Felton among that group of guards. He may not be in the top tier, but he’s been playing that way as of late.
PLAYERS WHO DO NOT MAKE ME WORRY
Any Center. Whether it be Timofey Mozgov or Ronnie Turiaf, neither of the Knicks’ centers inspire fear. Glen Davis will be getting the majority of the minutes in the middle and while Mozgov towers over him, he lacks the necessary edge to matchup with Baby. Turiaf, on the other hand, may be a seasoned vet but his game is too similar to Davis’- only Davis is better.
WHAT WE WANT TO SEE TONIGHT
The Celtics have had a ton of trouble with high-energy/junkyard-type players (see Fields above). This may even cause coach Doc Rivers to consider shuffling the starting lineup tonight. With both O’Neal’s out and the Knicks tendency to go small with Stoudemire in the middle, Rivers may choose to play Paul Pierce at the power forward tonight. He would be guarding Danilo Gallinari (a guy who mostly matches up with Pierce anyway) and Rivers could move Marquis Daniels into the starting lineup to guard Wilson Chandler in lieu of Semih Erden.
That is, of course, if Mike D’Antoni does not shuffle his lineup by putting Timofey Mozgov in to matchup with the Celtics’ de facto starter, Erden. Whatever happens, each team will be sure to make the necesary adjustments. When it’s all said and done, the Celtics should come out with a win tonight. They are just the better team–but more importantly, they are the better defensive team and a fairly comparable offensive team.
The Celtics will at first try to beat the Knicks at their own game, but will eventually tighten up their defense. Celtics 110, Knicks 105.