After a brutal loss in Brooklyn last night, the Knicks open the Garden for the first time this season, hosting Kemba Walker and the Celtics.
After two road games, the New York Knicks return the Mecca to face Kemba Walker and the new-look Boston Celtics.
The early returns of the 2019–20 season have been up and down for the New York Knicks. The team is playing hard, R.J. Barrett has looked spry for a rookie, and free agent additions Marcus Morris and Julius Randle have both shared moments of brilliance in their first two games. And yet, the Knicks sit 0-2 and are still looking to nab their first win of the season.
Enter: the Boston Celtics. Fresh off a 112-106 victory over the Toronto Raptors, the Celtics, now led by Bronx native Walker, are looking to continue the good vibes as they head into Madison Square Garden.
What to Know: The Boston Celtics
Unfortunately, the former Knicks saboteur and current Celtics center Enes Kanter will not be available for the game, due to a knee contusion.
Still, the Celtics have a great team without Kanter and, at the very least, are better defensively with him on the sidelines in a suit. Still integrating himself within the offensive system, Walker isn’t shooting well but running the offense, nonetheless. Jaylen Brown, the $115 million man, bounced back from Game One with 25 points, nine rebounds, and four assists against Toronto.
Even Boston’s center combination without Kanter provides intrigue. Second-year man Robert Williams III offers shot-blocking and defense, while rookie Grant Williams offers a passing element most big men lack. Throw in Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart and you have a pretty good team.
What to watch for: R.J. Barrett and the “point guard position”
It’s still early, but the returns on R.J. Barrett have been great. He’s a much better defender than he showed at Duke, the jumper has looked good and he’s great at getting to the rim. The future, if the Knicks allow it to be, is bright for Barrett. For now, he’s playing the point guard position.
Outside of Frank Ntilikina, the point guard minutes have been shuffled between Barrett, Dennis Smith Jr., and Elfrid Payton. Smith has been a disaster and only played five minutes against Brooklyn. Payton has been up and down, leaving Barrett to handle a ton of the duties at point guard.
So far, he’s been adequate—capable of running a pick-and-roll, some good looks and drop-offs to bigs. Still, he isn’t a point guard in the sense that the advanced passing—passing to the corners, passing to the other side of the floor—just isn’t there yet.
As a result, a ton of possessions end up with Randle or Morris running isolation plays for themselves.
The Knicks need a point guard, but it seems like Barrett is manning the position for now. Whether Smith turns a corner or Payton provides the Knicks with a reliable second option seems to be in question.
The X-Factor: Kevin Knox
Kevin Knox played well against Brooklyn, finishing with 16 points and four made threes. He looked aggressive with the ball in his hands and played well off-ball by creating movement and making space. After a rough rookie season, Knox has put together two productive offensive games in a row.
The key is for Knox to remain aggressive—attacking the basket when getting the ball in transition, remaining active on the glass, and contesting on defense. In getting active, the hope is that Knox would impact the game in different ways. So far, Knox has two assists, zero blocks and one steal in two games.
The shooting is nice with Knox hitting 7-of-8 from three in two games. Continuing to space the floor will allow him to remain in the rotation and continue to develop around the floor.
At least for now, the plan of using Knox around veteran talents is working so far.
- Who: Boston Celtics vs. New York Knicks
- When: Saturday, October 26th, 7:30 p.m. EST
- Where To Watch: NBA TV, MSG