First and foremost, from what we already do know, Kevin Garnett is out for two weeks with an inflamed ankle. On the other hand, Tyson Chandler is listed as questionable tonight against Boston; so we probably will not know until a little later if he will be active tonight or not tonight.
Boston has been trotting out a relatively small starting lineup, similar to the Knicks’ with Kenyon Martin at the five spot. Jeff Green and Brandon Bass present a great matchup for Carmelo Anthony and K-Mart, which brings up the question to if Chandler, who’s neck is still not 100%, should play tonight against a worn-down Celtics squad. Would it be better if Chandler took the night off and returned tomorrow night at home against a frontcourt-dominant Grizzlies squad?
Without Garnett manning the middle, Boston’s defense and rebounding have plummeted significantly. They have allowed over 104 points in three of their four games during their losing skid. New York’s four in a row will meet Boston’s four in a row tonight, in what could potentially be a first round matchup.
Now ask yourself, how much will Chandler truly be needed tonight? Yes, Boston is a hostile environment, and Chandler is our number one guy on defense. But the lack of a true post scorer for Boston has resorted to a heavy reliance on Jeff Green and Paul Pierce to produce points—Both whom like to pick-and-choose their spots on the floor. Kenyon Martin has resurrected himself in Chandler’s absence, averaging 12 points and 7 rebounds, while filling the defensive captain role Chandler plays for the Knicks.
While tonight’s matchup will most likely come down to the last few minutes, New York should be more worried about giving up open looks on the wings to shooters, than slashers that will break down the Knick defense. Not to mention Marcus Camby is available if needed. But without Garnett, Brandon Bass is Boston’s biggest player at 6’10, and can easily be handled down low by Martin, the way he has been playing over these last six games.
It is a division game tonight, and a chance to build on a second place lead in the conference, but it can be done resting Chandler for tomorrow, as Mike Woodson probably hopes he can limit the minutes of most of his players on the first night of a back-to-back. Also knowing that Chandler is not fully healthy just makes his case to rest-up more plausible. We all know, though, how much of a competitor Tyson is, and how hard it will be to keep him out of tonight’s game if he wants to play. If he is completely healthy, by all means play tonight. His week off probably did wonders, as he has had no time off since his Olympic stint in London last summer. It can ultimately go either way, and I guess Woodson will let us know sooner or later.
Props to NBA.com for providing stats.