By Charlie Widdoes (Twitter)
Knicks vs. Celtics | Madison Square Garden
When: Tuesday | 7:30 PM
Where to Watch: MSG
Where to Listen: ESPN 98.7 FM
New York (17-27): The Knicks busted out of a five-game losing streak in a big way, notching consecutive wins over the Bobcats and Lakers on Friday and Sunday, respectively. Carmelo Anthony scored 97 points in the two games, breaking both Knicks and Madison Square Garden single-game scoring records against Charlotte. After Monday's practice, Melo stressed the importance of building on the momentum as the team plays the final three of an eight-game homestand. As defenses have been locking in on defending Anthony, his teammates have stepped up; after missing five games with an upper respiratory infection, Tyson Chandler has reestablished his presence down low, notching double-doubles in four of the last five games in which he's played more than 20 minutes.
Boston (15-31): Since the last time the Celtics and Knicks met, Boston has won only 4 of 21 games. Back then, they were the young overachievers under first-year coach Brad Stevens, clinging to an unlikely playoff spot in a wide-open Eastern Conference. Now, as they ease All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo back from a major knee injury, they are back in the lottery picture. Rondo has averaged around 24 minutes in the five games he's played since returning, of which the Celts have won zero. They've been without his ideal backcourt mate, Avery Bradley, due to both ankle and hand injuries, and highly-regarded rookie Kelly Olynyk is coming along slowly, shooting under 42 percent from the floor and 30 percent from three.
The Numbers Game
The Knicks had five players score in double figures in a total team effort against the Lakers: Anthony (35), Raymond Felton (20), Tim Hardaway Jr. (18), J.R. Smith (16) and Chandler (13).
Matchup to Watch
Raymond Felton vs. Rajon Rondo
The battle of the point guards could be key tonight, as Felton and Rondo both set the tone for their respective clubs. Rondo, never the most dangerous shooter, is connecting on only 29 percent of his field goal attempts since his return. His assist rate is also the lowest it's been in five years, no doubt a product of small sample size and the loss of many of his most trusted weapons over the summer. Fortunately for the Celtics, rookie Phil Pressey has emerged as a viable backup, but they'll need whoever is handling the ball to create offense for others. Felton seems to be rounding back into form after an injury-plagued start to the year, as evidenced by a high frequency and success rate of pick-and-rolls over the past few games.
What to Look For
The Knicks will run offense through Anthony, who has been unstoppable for most of this season. Boston's lack of depth in the backcourt, however, means that they'll throw a lot of length out there on the wings. Jeff Green, Gerald Wallace and Brandon Bass could all take turns checking Melo this evening...The Knicks' bench seems to be coming together, especially the combination of Hardaway and Smith. With Amar'e Stoudemire, Kenyon Martin and Andrea Bargnani injured, Coach Mike Woodson has some intriguing small-ball lineup options at his disposal all of a sudden. The Felton-Chandler pick-and-roll has been clicking, one big reason why Woodson said yesterday that the last two games show what the Knicks are capable of doing.