The New York Knicks are free falling on a six-game losing streak. They face a tough challenge in the underachieving yet talented Celtics in Boston on Thanksgiving Eve.
Coming off of a tough loss against the Portland Trail Blazers last night, the Knicks head up to the TD Garden looking to salvage the second half of a back-to-back. New York (4-14) will square off with a Boston Celtics (9-8) squad, which has vastly underachieved thus far this season but is nonetheless still extraordinarily dangerous, talented, and deep.
There weren’t many expectations of winning surrounding the Knicks this season as they are currently rebuilding and letting the young guns develop, but the same cannot be said for the Celtics. Boston had championship aspirations coming into the season and were viewed as the clear-cut best team in the Eastern Conference. Unfortunately for Celtics fans, Boston has been very average this season and finds itself sixth in the conference standings, currently. Kyrie Irving has been as good as advertised, but Jaylen Brown has taken a step back offensively thus far, Jayson Tatum hasn’t popped off yet like many had hoped, and Gordon Hayward is still easing his way back from his gruesome ankle injury. This all equates to a 104.3 Offensive Rating for Boston, which is 27th in the NBA and not what you would expect from a team with so many stars and so much offensive talent.
Regardless, the Knicks will have their hands full tonight, as Boston looks to get back on track and assert themselves as the kings of the East.
Here are a few things to keep an eye on tonight.
30-point Streak on the Line
Tim Hardaway, Jr. has been on a roll recently, rattling off at least 30 points in three consecutive games. Tonight, things might not come so easily for Hardaway Jr. because the Celtics’ D can be especially stingy. One thing Boston has not lacked this season is its ability to defend, as it owns the number-one rated defense in basketball (102.1). Hardaway has been excellent this season, shouldering much of the scoring load left to pick up with the absence of the injured Kristaps Porzingis. His consistency and willingness to get others involved more this season have stood out as well. THJ will be presented with a tough challenge tonight, so it is important for him to pick his spots wisely and be able to knock down his open looks, which should be few and far between.
Despite Boston’s poor offensive output this season, it still ranks third in the NBA in three-pointers made per game at 12.5, per NBA Stats, so it is imperative that the Knicks close out with conviction and make sure their perimeter defense is respectable at the very least. All five Celtics starters, with the exception of Aron Baynes, can stroke it from behind the arc. New York ranks 23rd in the NBA in terms of least threes given up per game and its ineptitude in that department reared its ugly head last night as the Knicks blew a double-digit lead and watched C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard rain threes all evening.
If the Knicks can limit the open looks of guys like Kyrie Irving and Jayson Tatum, they have a much better chance of winning the game.
- After receiving a rare start last night, it will be interesting to see whether or not David Fizdale trots Mario Hezonja out there again after only putting up two points against Portland.
- A starting lineup with Frank Ntilikina and Damyean Dotson would make sense against a lethal Celtics backcourt, but will we be surprised again and see Emmanuel Mudiay, who has been very good as of late.
- One night after a revenge game for Noah Vonleh, he returns near his old stomping grounds, growing up in Haverhill, Massachusetts, about 35 miles from Boston.