By Charlie Widdoes (Twitter)
Knicks vs. Celtics | TD Garden
When: Friday | 7:30 PM
Where to Watch: MSG
Where to Listen: ESPN 98.7 FM
New York (6-15): After hanging on to beat Chicago on Wednesday, the Knicks head to Boston looking for some consistency in order to make a run in the Atlantic Division. They let a 23-point lead slip away to the injury-riddled Bulls, but sealed the victory in the last few minutes thanks to a clutch Amar'e Stoudemire 18-footer and a handful of Carmelo Anthony free throws down the stretch. With Raymond Felton expected to miss 2-3 weeks with a hamstring injury, Pablo Prigioni stepped into the starting lineup and provided his usual spark. Back from a two-game absence, Kenyon Martin helped set the tone defensively, blocking four shots and anchoring the paint.
Boston (10-14): The Celtics remain atop the Atlantic Division, despite playing without Rajon Rondo (recovering from torn ACL) and promising rookie Kelly Olynyk, who is out indefinitely with a sprained knee. They play a deep rotation and play hard every night for new coach Brad Stevens. Knicks fans saw that firsthand last Sunday, as Boston pounced early and cruised to a blowout win. After the win at MSG, the Celts dropped two straight, to Brooklyn and the Clippers.
The Numbers Game
A bright spot against in Sunday's loss was that the Knicks took care of the ball, as has become a staple of their offense. They won the turnover battle, 16-14, and now lead the league in fewest turnovers committed.
Matchup to Watch
Pablo Prigioni vs. Jordan Crawford
The Knicks had no answer for Crawford in the last meeting, especially in the third quarter when he caught fire and nailed four 3-pointers in less than five minutes. Prigioni, who is one of the Knicks' most determined defenders, was one of many who tried to slow Crawford, the onetime erratic scorer who has evolved into a functional point guard that has shot 40 percent from downtown this season. Prigioni will again be tasked with checking Crawford while administering ball movement that is essential to the Knicks' offense.
What to Look For
Still only 2.5 games out of first place, picking up a division win would be a step in the right direction for the Knicks. Boston's depth became an issue for the shorthanded Knicks last time they met, and rectifying that could be a key to winning tonight. This means understanding the tendencies of each player, and not letting outbursts like Crawford's, or wide-open 3-point attempts for Jared Sullinger, do them in... Stoudemire has been coming on in a big way, not only with his offense but as an interior defender, as well. With STAT joining Anthony as a legitimate scoring threat, we could see things open up for the wings.