The New York Knicks
The New York Knicks are ranked eleventh (11th) in the Eastern Conference and there has not been much to suggest they’ll be able to climb out of their hole. At 8-17 and without any true stars, there’s a lot to worry about for the Knicks regarding their direction.
Rumor has it that the Knicks are already prepared to give up on G Frank Ntilikina and G-F Kevin Knox. For perspective, Ntilikina is 23 years old and Knox is 19 and a rookie. A dynamic combo guard and a big wing scorer under-25 aren’t easy to come by in this league but it seems the Knicks want them on the market.
The Boston Celtics
The Boston Celtics are ranked sixth (6th) in the Eastern Conference at 13-10 and are starting to look more and more like their normal selves as time goes on. For the first time since his return from injury Gordon Hayward has looked himself, posting 30 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists, and 2 steals in a 118-109 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
First Gordon Hayward was moved to the bench, now it seems as if Jaylen Brown will remain on the bench with Smart moving to the starting lineup. The offensive balance for the Celtics has been off all season so by moving two of their better scorers to the bench we may see an improvement to both starter and reserve offensive efficiency.
What’s at Stake?
Two of the original franchises in the NBA, these two teams have met an incredible 540 times (67 Playoffs) with the Celtics winning 291 times and the Knicks winning 182 times. The Knicks and Celtics have already played twice this season, splitting the matches.
Should the New York Knicks win this match, their record would improve to 9-17 and would move them to tenth (10th) in the NBA and above their state rivals the Brooklyn Nets.
If the Boston Celtics win this match, their record would improve to 14-10 and put them in a two-way tie with the Indiana Pacers for fifth (5th) place in the East.
Questions to Answer
Who’s favoured in this classic NBA match-up?
Will it be the Knicks offence or Celtics defence that wins out?
Will Marcus Smart be the difference in the starting lineup?
We’re going to compare the Knicks and the Celtics and attempt to answer those questions.
The Celtics Defence is 2nd in the NBA
The Boston Celtics are only behind the Oklahoma City Thunder in terms of defensive efficiency this year. With a defensive rating of 103.1 and a points allowed average of 104.1 the Celtics have been able to carry over their special team defence from last year.
Frankly speaking the defensive side of the ball is not where the Celtics are struggling, nor was it expected to be. With rangy and able defenders in Marcus Smart, Al Horford, and Jaylen Brown the Celtics are a switch-friendly team to match up with in the modern NBA.
The Knicks Have Scoring Options
Averaging approximately 108.9 points per game is nothing for NBA teams to laugh at when facing the Knicks. The young team is definitely inexperienced, but has a wealth of talent and enthusiasm when they hit the court.
Look no further than the player’s points-per-game averages. While G Tim Hardaway leads the team with 22.1 points per game, the Knicks have five more players that average over ten (10) points per game, and four more that average over seven (7) points per game.
New York Knicks Roster Notes
Trey Burke has been diagnosed with a right MCL sprain and will be re-evaluated over the weekend.
For Frank Ntilikina, after a DNP – Coach’s Decision in a three point loss to the Washington Wizards, it has been reported that the Nets and Suns have probed the Knicks about his availability.
Boston Celtics Roster Notes
Jaylen Brown (Tailbone) is expected to play not suiting up against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Marcus Smart is expected to continue to start at shooting guard for the Celtics upon Brown’s return.
Tim Hardaway Jr Can’t Take a Break
Tim Hardaway Jr has been solid for the New York Knicks. Averaging 22.1 points per game while shooting a respectable 36% from three, Hardaway Jr has proven himself to be a capable wing scorer against anyone in the league.
Against the Celtics he will be going up against one of the NBA’s premier defenders. Marcus Smart owns a 100.1 defensive rating and accounts for 34% of the Celtics’ steals. Hardaway Jr will have a tough night going up against a stalwart defender in Smart and should be prepared for more than a couple physical possessions.
Marcus Smart in the Starting Line-up
With Jaylen Brown out in the Celtics last match against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Marcus Smart is expected to stay in the starting lineup against the Knicks regardless of Brown’s return.
Against the Wolves, Smart posted 6 points, 3 assists, 2 rebounds, and 4 steals. While not flashy numbers, it was Smart’s defence that was calling card in the match. His perimeter defence was spectacular, assisting in holding the Wolves perimeter starters to a combined 36% from the field.
Head-to-Head: Al Horford vs Enes Kanter
In his eighth year in the NBA, Turkish center Enes Kanter has built himself into a productive offensive player. Currently averaging 14.9 points per game and 11.8 points per game, Kanter has become a load for any opposing big man with his inside outside threat.
On the other side of the court is five-time all-star Al Horford. At first a back to the basket power forward, the versatile forward has moved to center and fit perfectly amongst the Celtics cast. Averaging 12.1 points per game and 6.1 rebounds per game, Al Horford is the perfect complimentary piece to the Celtics scorers.
Horford is an excellent defensive big, averaging 1.6 blocks per game. Enes Kanter is an incredibly versatile offensive center that can hit from the outside and take it down low. Keep an eye out on this matchup. While Horford is a solid defender, his defensive rating has fallen with each passing month this season. A head-to-head with Kanter may reveal if it’s a fluke or if he’s really been regressing.
New York Knicks at Boston Celtics Predictions and Odds
The odds makers have the Boston Celtics favoured over the New York Knicks by 13, with an over/under of 110.