Boston: 99.9 points/100 possessions (17th)
New York: 97.1 points/100 possessions (24th)
Boston: 94.7 points/100 possessions (2nd)
New York: 97.8 points/100 possessions (11th)
Probable NY Starters: Iman Shumpert (PG) Landry Fields (SG), ‘Melo (SF), Amare Stoudemire (PF), Tyson Chandler (C)
View from the Opposing Bench: Knickerblogger
Boston: Rajon Rondo is a game-time decision but may play. Keyon Dooling is out.
New York: Baron Davis ain’t ready yet.
Tonight marks the end of the first trimester of the season, and the opponent that closes it is the same one that opened it: the Knicks, who beat the Celtics 106-104 on Christmas Day. In Gotham, that probably feels like a lifetime ago. The Knicks are now tumbling head over heels in what might prove Mike D’Antoni’s death spiral, having lost 10 of their last 12 games. Meanwhile, the C’s have found their defensive mojo (they’re back to second in the league in efficiency) and may have Rondo back in the lineup as soon as tonight.
We should also keep our eye on the burgeoning Bill Walker-Kevin Garnett feud, the opening salvo of which capped the Christmas game.
If the world does end during our lifetime, I want the last voice we hear before we all perish — probably beaming out from some underground bunker — to belong to the great Stephen A. Smith. Here’s his recent rant on the Knicks, where he bounces effortlessly from low-rumble bedroom seriousness to high-pitched hysterics.
As you’ll see, said rant is unofficially but aggressively sponsored by worldstarhiphop.com.
The Knicks are a curious concoction. They’re a D’Antoni team without a great point guard, which has hampered their ability to get Amare into the regular pick and roll situations where he thrives. He’s only recently shown signs of breaking out. They’ve also got ‘Melo, who has wondered aloud in recent days if he’s shooting too much (although he torched the Celtics last game without Paul Pierce in the lineup). I wonder if the smart move might be to play into these New York insecurities: ballhawk whoever’s running the point, force the ball to ‘Melo and then force ‘Melo into the teeth of the strong side zone.
The 2011-12 version of the Knicks is also a much more efficient team on the defensive end than has been typical of recent Knicks teams. Based solely on numbers, the Celtics need to worry far more about how to score the ball against New York than how to stop them. Having a functional Rondo would be huge because his penetration (esp. in transition) has been effective at shifting New York’s defense and opening up shooters on the perimeter. To that point, having Ray Allen back in the lineup, even without Rondo, gives the Celtics someone to punish the Knicks if Pierce plays his recent role of facilitator again tonight.
The Knicks are the second fastest team in the league, but a back-and-forth game would be a mixed blessing for them. It would be playing right into Boston’s hands on offense: the C’s have the second best transit attack in the league (per mySynergySports). But the Celtics are only the 27th best team in the league defending in transition. Add it all up and we could have a shootout.
Either way, it should be entertaining. These two teams have played some of the better regular season games against each other the last year and a bit.
Boston 103 New York 100