A tough loss suffered in Brooklyn last night will have to be quickly brushed off as the Knicks host the Celtics at the Garden on Saturday.

After splitting their two home openers—one in Manhattan, the other in Brooklyn—the New York Knicks take on the Boston Celtics on Saturday night. This will mark the Knicks and the Celtics’ first back-to-back games of the season. Although both teams are recovering from losses, the Knicks have a couple of positive notes that can propel them forward, unafraid of their Eastern Conference rivals.


Key Scoring Areas

The Inside Game

Enes Kanter’s 29-point, 10-rebound game against the Brooklyn Nets is a direct example of how he’ll be one of the main scoring options for the Knicks this season. He’s a top-five post player in the league, and he’ll need every trick in the book if he wants to get by the Celtics’ backcourt defenders. Al Horford and Aron Baynes, two players known as Joel Embiid Stoppers, will be matched up against him in the contest. Kanter living up to his reputation is imperative for the offense since he’s the only sure-fire scorer available on the roster. If he fails to get it going, that could spell trouble for the Knickerbockers early in the game.

For the Knicks, pushing the pace may not be as helpful to earn points in the paint tonight as it was against the Nets and Hawks. While they gave up 113 points to the Toronto Raptors last night, the Celtics tended to be a defensively sound team—and their young core is just as athletic as the Knicks’.

Plus, we’ve seen how tough it can be for New York to get going in the beginning of the game. Leaning on Tim Hardaway Jr.’s athleticism and Kanter’s post ability is fine, but with the duo scoring the teams first 17 points against the Nets, it showcased the team’s vulnerabilities, namely all-around scoring from multiple spots on the floor. Be prepared for the Celtics to key in on those two threats early on.

Their best bet may be to exploit Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving. He’s not a plus defender by any stretch of the imagination, so penetration in those one-on-one situations could be helpful on that front. This requires Trey Burke and Allonzo Trier using their distinct gifts to get to the rim. Whether they decide to shoot or not, it opens up the offense in a plethora of ways; if a helping defender collapses on the Knicks, good, but that doesn’t mean the Knicks’ shooters are going to knock them down.

Three-point Shooting

The Knicks shot 9-for-28 from three-point range against Brooklyn and 12-for-33 against Atlanta. Both times they shot fewer attempts than their opponents. It’s not surprising since the Knick’s best three-point shooter, Courtney Lee, has been out since before the regular season, but, if they want to have a chance against Boston, they’ll need to put more emphasis on creating open three-point shots.

One recommendation would be subbing in Damyean Dotson instead of Ron Baker during the course of the game. If Coach Fizdale is serious about playing time based on merit, then Dotson’s disappearances (DNP-CD’s) during the first two games are blemishes that need to be corrected. Whether Fizdale inserts him at shooting guard, small forward, or even the power forward position, Damyean can impact the game with cutting and spot up shooting, along with hard-nosed defense on the other side of the court. A simple tweak like that could have made all the difference against the Nets.

On a brighter note, rookie Kevin Knox had a good night, shooting 7-of-14 with confidence and tallying six rebounds—three of them offensive boards. It appears that he’s over the hump offensively. What’s important is that he tried to contribute in other ways, even when his shot wasn’t falling. He has the ability to be a good rebounder, scorer, and penetrator, but for now he needs to pick his spots. If those open threes are there, take them. Bad habits like taking the floater when he thinks he’s close enough to chuck it up isn’t going to help the Wildcat’s cause.

In addition to that lineup change, the Knicks will need to improve their passing. They won the turnover battle against Brooklyn 3-22, but they easily lost the rebounding battle 55-36. Also, they racked up only 14 assists. This needs to change. Lance Thomas and Frank Ntilikina, the Knicks starting forwards, are both weak rebounders. The Celtics themselves have always had trouble reeling them in, but the Knicks have it even worse. Kevin Knox starting or playing a big chunk of time next to Ntilikina could alleviate that. Also, the two lanky prospects can serve as tenacious, switchy defenders. Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum are sure to give them fits offensively—meaning, the dynamic duo will need every ounce of their youthful vigor to contain them.

Injury Updates

Knicks

  • Courtney Lee (neck spasms);
  • Mitchell Robinson (Head Mitch In Charge) is available

Celtics

  • Gordon Hayward (ankle) is out;
  • Jayson Tatum (cooled down)

 

The NBA has dubbed the Boston Celtics as the team with the best chance to beat the dynastic Golden State Warriors. As for the Knicks, they’re projected to win between 25 and 30 games, far outside of the playoffs. However, right now, both teams are 1-1, and there’s no law against being hopeful. The Knicks are at home, let’s expect them to play like it.