By: Daniel Grove
Knicks vs. Celtics is one of the greatest and oldest rivalries in the NBA. Expect the players to be playing with a little extra gusto as each team continues to compete for positioning in the Atlantic division. The Knicks want to even up the season series at one game a piece, and the Celtics want to get back in the race for the division. Playing at TD Garden will be tough for the Knicks, who are looking to get their first in Boston since November 18, 2006.
2. J.R. Smith Dominating the Celtics’ “Lockdown” Defender
Avery Bradley is considered the Celtics’ best lockdown defender. The majority of his minutes will be at shooting guard, defending J.R. Smith. Smith had success against Bradley last season, averaging 26.4 points and 7.4 assists per 36 minutes on the floor together. More importantly, the Knicks are +16.8 points per 36 minutes when both Bradley and Smith were on the floor last season. Look for Smith to come up big against the Celtics best defender, who is recovering from a rib injury.
3. The Battle of the Centers
Kevin Garnett and Tyson Chandler are significant presences down low. When they are both on the floor together, the Knicks are +9.8 points per 36 minutes because of Tyson Chandler’s stellar defense. When Tyson Chandler is on the court without KG harassing him, he is averaging 20.6 points and 25.7 rebounds per 36 minutes. While Chandler does not get many minutes without KG guarding him, it’s essential for him to take advantage.
4. NOVAKane and Company Making it Rain from Downtown
The last time these two teams met, the Knicks drained 14 threes on only 32 attempts (43.8%). Novak was 3-for-3, J.R. Smith was 4-for-9, and Jason Kidd was 2-for-3. Despite the loss, the Celtics had holes on their perimeter defense that the Knicks were able to exploit. The Knicks will have to drain double-digit threes again, like they have been all season, to get a victory up in Boston.