Yet another “biggest game of the season.” After the Sixers, two games against the Bucks, and the Easter Sunday miracle, I honestly struggled to find a reason to really get into this game. But then I remembered that the Knicks still have a shot at the division crown with a win tonight! The Knicks are just 4.5 games back of the Celtics with 6 games to play so there is still a chance.
To figure out what chance the Knicks have at the division, I ran a computer simulation that plays the rest of the season 100,000 times. I also accounted for 3,500 possible variations such as potential injuries, playoff teams resting starters, and the impact Atlanta’s famed strip clubs will have on the eFG% of JR Smith. And what did the computer simulation tell me:
“Dude, get a life.”
Yeah, the Knicks are not winning the division but so what. That doesn’t mean we can’t win this game if for no other reason than to keep the god awful smirk off of Paul Pierce’s face for what will most likely be the last time we see him this season (and yes, his smirking on the bench counts). Here is how we do it:
1. Stay in Rondo’s face
Every time I’ve watched the Celtics this year, I’ve noticed defenders dropping off Rondo. The defenders seem to do this because they think Rondo can’t shoot. And while this is true, the lack of pressure makes it just that much easier for Rondo to survey the defense and rack up the assists. I get that defenders don’t want Rondo to blow past him, but the Knicks are the rare team that may be able to take Rondo out of his comfort zone. The combination of Shumpert and Chandler present a real challenge. Shumpert can stay in Rondo’s face and keep pressure on him, and if Rondo beats Shumpert, then Chandler should be waiting to protect the rim. Rondo loves to dish after he draws in the bigs, so the Knicks have to do a good job of closing passing lanes and keeping a body on anyone who crashes the offensive boards.
The Celtics are not a strong rebounding team. They are 29th overall with only 39.2 boards per game. They are also 28th in the NBA in Offensive Rating (100.8). If the Knicks can control the glass, they can further limit Boston on offense. The Knicks inability to get key defensive rebounds has been a problem in the past. Chandler can’t do it all but a simple box out from his teammates would do wonders.
3. Efficient offense
The Knicks offense sputters at times. That is to be expected when a team is 21st overall in Offensive Rating (103.3). Because the Celtics are such a strong defensive team (1st with 98.1) the Knicks can’t afford to waste possessions with bad shots and turnovers. The Knicks should look to exploit the injury thinned Celtic line up by pushing the pace and attacking the basket. Here is where the team really misses Lin. Lin attacked the basket often which resulted in either contact, drawing in defenders for an assist, or the odd “how did he do that lay up.” Rather than hoping the deep shots will drop tonight, the Knicks should attack the Celtic line. Getting Garnett in foul trouble can only help matters. Now if the Knicks would only knock down a few free throws.
All in all, this is a game the Knicks can win. One they must win to keep the fantasy of a Division title alive.