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Sunday, September 21, 2014

Game Preview & Thread: Celtics at Knicks

The New York Knicks face off with the Boston Celtics at 7:30 tonight at MSG. They go up against a scrappy, but still pretty terrible, Celtics team and to get a better idea of what the Knicks were in for tonight I brought in John Karalis of Red’s Army and Tom Westerholm of CelticsHub. Enjoy!

The Celtics have won just 2 of their last 16 games. What has been the team’s biggest problem(s)? Also, how can the Knicks capitalize on them?

John: The biggest problem is that they’re not very good.  Let’s just get that out there from the start.  They have players that could be good.  They have players that will improve over time (we hope), but right now, the guys that are out there on a regular basis aren’t very good. You’ll see plenty of times Rajon Rondo will find guys open for good looks that just won’t go down.  The Celtics don’t capitalize on every opportunity they get right now. That’s the reason the Celtics blow big leads.  They don’t have anyone who can consistently drain run-stopping shots.  “Every team makes a run” becomes “Every team’s run can last a full quarter” against the Celtics.

So the Knicks need to first not take the Celtics for granted.  If they simply attack the boards and clean up the Celtics misses, they can get out in transition, exploit mismatches, and slowly build a big lead. I will caution teams, though:  Do not coast against the C’s.  They CAN get hot.  They have built 15+ point leads quite often. Their problem is that they blow those leads.  But if the Knicks coast and settle for long jumpers, Rondo and Phil Pressey will both gladly push the tempo and make teams pay for laziness.

Tom:  It’s a cop out answer, but the biggest problem has simply been a lack of talent. You may or may not have heard, but the Celtics kind of suck, even for the Eastern Conference. The Knicks can capitalize by being a little bit less awful. Even if Carmelo Anthony is defended well by Brandon Bass (which we’ll get to), the Knicks have so many more offensive weapons — and the Celtics historically have struggled so badly with the Felton/Chandler PnR — that it’s pretty hard to imagine Boston winning.

I know it’s only been five games, but is Rajon Rondo’s play thus far worrisome?

John: Not at all.  He’s not shooting well at all, but he’s only been back a couple of weeks from a yearlong ACL recovery.  I wouldn’t expect him to come in and pick right up where he left off.  His minutes have been limited, he’s got a new coach, and he’s got new teammates.  An adjustment period is to be expected. He can still pass, though, and he’s made some great ones.  Once guys know what to expect, they’ll catch more passes cleanly, and they’ll finish a higher percentage.  I’ve said from the beginning that the post-All Star break Celtics will probably be a lot better than the pre-break Celtics, and I still believe that to be true.

Tom: No, not at all. He’s rusty, he’s still working himself back into shape, and he doesn’t quite trust his knee yet. Where old Rondo would have planted and changed direction on a dime, current Rondo looks hesitant and a little nervous to test the body part that made him miss a year of basketball. This is all extremely normal for an ACL injury, and frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t look like himself for the rest of the year.

This is all completely fine: He isn’t needed until next year anyway, and (from a cold-hearted, dickish perspective) it may drive his market price down in free agency. Meanwhile, his jumper looks a little improved, and he appears to be looking for his own shot. If the Celtics plan to rebuild around him, these are encouraging signs.

The Celtics are struggling to score this season, but which player would you say the Knicks are going to have the most problems defending?  How should the Knicks go about limiting him offensively?

John: Well, Rondo is the obvious matchup to watch.  If he can get into the paint, then he can have flashes of his former self.  Again, if the Knicks get lazy and their rotations are slow, there’s nothing that will stop a great point guard from finding guys for layups. Beyond that, keeping Jared Sullinger off the boards is probably your biggest defensive concern. He has a knack for getting in there and keeping possessions alive.  Same with Kris Humphries, who has played pretty well for the Celtics of late; they will hurt teams by getting after their own misses.

Tom: *thinking* *thinking….* *still thinking…….* Jared Sullinger is probably the best offensive player on this squad, but he has been playing through an injured hand, which has limited his efficiency. Jeff Green is probably the best answer. When he’s engaged and aggressive, he’s dangerous, and the Knicks don’t have a natural foil for him. The best option is probably Iman Shumpert, who is quick and aggressive enough to drive Green nuts, but Green is considerably taller and longer than Shump.

But Green has struggled with consistency all year in the primary scorer’s role. Asking him to consistently be the number one option without Pierce and Garnett to deflect defensive attention has been a tall task.

Even though the Celtics are struggling on offense, their DRtg is still a respectable 14th in the league. What are the team’s strengths defensively? Should we expect a lot of Brandon Bass on Melo? 

John: Bass has done a very good job guarding top-notch wings.  He is surprisingly effective against Melo, and he’s had some good stints against LeBron James.  Melo won’t be able to post Bass, and Bass has no problem muscling Melo out on the wing, so yes, I’d expect plenty of that. The Celtics are doing a decent job of forcing jump shots by sagging on screens and preventing whole scale breakdowns on D. They have a tendency to be a little overly aggressive if teams move the ball around and force rotations.

But they’re doing all right defending the pick-and-roll, which is obviously a big thing in the NBA.  If a team wants to work hard, they can break the C’s defense down with ball movement, but teams tend not to want to work that hard to beat a bad team.

Tom: Rookie head coach Brad Stevens has placed a lot of emphasis on stopping the ball at the point of attack on the perimeter. This is big for the Celtics because A) They have good perimeter defenders (see: Avery Bradley, Jeff Green when he wants to be, Gerald Wallace at times, etc.) and B) Their rim protection consists of Kris Humphries, Jared Sullinger and Brandon Bass. Stevens is notorious for being a film geek who pours over hours of footage, so you can be sure he has seen the small amounts of success Brandon Bass has had on Melo. I would definitely expect to see some of that matchup.

So, how do you think the game plays out?

John: I don’t go into many games expecting wins by the Celtics right now.  If the Knicks play up to their capabilities, they can slowly build a comfortable lead and win.  But I’ve seen an undisciplined Knicks team this season that seems to gladly coast when they feel like they can. There’s nothing schedule-wise that suggests this should be a trap game for the Knicks.  There’s no reason for them to be lazy.  But there’s a part of me that expects this year’s Knicks to make life way too hard. The Celtics have a history this season of burning better teams that take them lightly.

I wouldn’t be shocked to see another 10-2 run to start the game for Boston.  From there, it’s up to New York to decide if they’re better than their record, or if they’re really the team just a couple spots ahead of the Celtics on the outside of the playoff picture.

Tom: It’s one thing for a team to have the best player on the floor. It’s something else entirely for them to have 3-4 of the best players on the floor, and with Jared Sullinger’s hand injury, Avery Bradley’s sprained ankle, Rajon Rondo’s incremental recovery and Jeff Green’s inconsistent play, the talent disparity is pretty substantial.

That said, Boston often plays well for three and a half quarters before losing with style, so don’t be surprised if this comes down to the last two minutes. Also don’t be surprised if the Celtics lose by 40. This team is really bad.

86 comments on “Game Preview & Thread: Celtics at Knicks

  1. Robtachi

    That said, Boston often plays well for three and a half quarters before losing with style, so don’t be surprised if this comes down to the last two minutes. Also don’t be surprised if the Celtics lose by 40. This team is really bad.

    I read that three times before I realized he wasn’t talking about our heroes.

    Oh well, go Knicks!

  2. Brian Cronin

    Yeah, the Knicks aren’t good, but come on, the Celtics are just soooo bad. They really need to win this game.

  3. Kahnzy

    I get a kick out of people saying how good it is to have K-Mart back because we’re so small on the inside without Bargs.

    It’s people like that that give us the Mike “east is big” Woodson’s of the world. If anything is going to propel this team back into the playoff race, it’s Barg’s injury. I’m not glad the person is hurt (he seems like a decent enough guy and I actually feel kinda bad for all the heat he gets for his contract and the trade, even though GM’s are the ones to blame for those mistakes), but I am glad the player is out for a while.

  4. Brian Cronin

    Can the Knicks play the “full tank-mode” Celtics every game please? Because this is awesome.

  5. Garson

    Can someone tie jr in a chair and have him watch himself play tonight over and over?

    His playmaking , defense and even shot selection is spectacular. When he is patient , he really sees the play develop and finds the cutter in ways others do not .

  6. maxwell_3g

    maybe this is just my 1990′s knicks bias, but I still feel that this team’s road to salvation is becoming an above average defensive team and riding melo’s ability to set up others for 3 pointers. towards that end, I want:
    1) Cole and Tyler (mainly Tyler) to continue to get minutes when Stat gets back. they need to believe that their key to playing time is defense and rebounding
    2) Murray to be resurrected. I do not look forward to 35 minutes of felton (not) guarding NBA playoff caliber pgs

  7. Kahnzy

    Man, I understand the pessimism here on KB about this team, and believe me I’m not sold that they’ve figured anything out either, but we should at least enjoy when they play well, especially since it’s been such a rarity this season.

  8. Garson

    If hardaway jr was a little taller and a lot whiter , I would think Novak was shooting those trifectas

  9. Kahnzy

    If hardaway jr was a little taller and a lot whiter , I would think Novak was shooting those trifectas

    But the discount triple checks just wouldn’t be the same

  10. maxwell_3g

    Bill Oreilly…. Jesse Jackson…. Spike Lee…. Metta World Peace….. I dont know if I could come up with a stranger foursome than that

  11. d-mar

    The only thing that would make this more enjoyable would be seeing the sullen faces of Pierce and Garnett on the Celtics bench

  12. BigBlueAL

    Knick beat writers are abuzz on Twitter cause they saw Jim Dolan, Alan Houston, Steve Mills, Dr. Lisa Callahan and Mark Warkentein all go into the Knicks locker room together.

  13. DRed

    Having K-Mart back is nice.

    Hope you enjoyed it while it lasted. How the fuck did we lose by 40 to this team?

  14. ruruland

    The Celtics have lost a ton of games of late, but with Rondo back they nearly beat Brooklyn, they beat Washington, Toronto,had a two point loss Golden State on the road and have been competitive in most of their really tough games (Houston, Portland).

    May this have something to do with two pg lineup, Melo getting his leg backs, Chandler’s re-animation, JR regressing to mean?

  15. ruruland

    Knick beat writers are abuzz on Twitter cause they saw Jim Dolan, Alan Houston, Steve Mills, Dr. Lisa Callahan and Mark Warkentein all go into the Knicks locker room together

    That is pretty interesting, actually. Could be horrible.

  16. Owen

    I miss that function greatly….

    Celtics look bad tonight….

    What does it mean that everyone is in the locker room?

  17. DRed

    The Celtics have lost a ton of games of late, but with Rondo back they nearly beat Brooklyn, they beat Washington, Toronto,had a two point loss Golden State on the road and have been competitive in most of their really tough games (Houston, Portland).

    They’re 2-13 in 2014. They fucking suck. It’s great. And we’re smoking them, like we should be.

    More of our good players (Chandler, Prigs) are healthy and getting back into form, JR might be getting his legs back, and we’re no longer giving the worst player in the NBA heavy minutes.

  18. DRed

    BTW, it is really annoying quoting other comments. I dont even bother doing it anymore lol.

    Keep that crazy talk going and you’ll wind up like poor Abbey. This blog is run by a ruthless tyrant.

  19. DRed

    WHen the heck did Melo get 17 and 7?

    And 4 and 3! Now that’s a well rounded, superstar type half of basketball.

  20. BigBlueAL

    Yeah, was just about to say now the speculation is Udrih might be traded soon. At least the news on KMart isnt bad.

  21. BigBlueAL

    Im just holding my breath until Chandler and Melo sit lol. Hopefully they are done for the night soon.

  22. Brian Cronin

    Im just holding my breath until Chandler and Melo sit lol. Hopefully they are done for the night soon.

    Right? Just sit ‘em, Woody!

  23. yellowboy90

    @ 48 me too. How much of a lead does Woody need. Let Cole and Tyler take us home. I’d even get Metta some run.

  24. Kahnzy

    This reminds me of last season in the two games against the Kings. In the first, in Sacramento, the Kings built a big lead, but the Knicks came back and actually took the lead at the end of the game before losing on a hail mary 3pter by a guy who doesn’t shoot 3′s.

    When the Kings came to MSG, we blew them out of the water by 50 (or close enough to it).

    I know the Knicks suck and any success really only means the continued existence of Mike Woodson as the head coach, but I’d still rather watch my team play well and win than tank for any reason (even if we had our pick this year).

  25. maxwell_3g

    woodson is dumber and dumber in my mind by the second. if someone gets injured, can it be death by firing squad??

  26. maxwell_3g

    should we also hate woodson because we have had competent backup centers on our roster all year, but he refused to play them?? I do

  27. DRed

    should we also hate woodson because we have had competent backup centers on our roster all year, but he refused to play them??I do

    Obvs.

  28. maxwell_3g

    woody…. you think we should get metta a couple minutes to get his legs under him??? think we should give toure some minutes??? no, just keep in JR

  29. Shad0wF0x

    I’m at my girlfriend’s place tonight in Connecticut. Watching the Comcast Celtics broadcast and they’re pretty boring. Does anyone who live in Connecticut have MSG?

  30. maxwell_3g

    no. i think MSG got dropped by CT cable (Cox?) a few years back. at least that is what happened to my pops. he gets the Nets and the Celts

  31. Kahnzy

    I’m at my girlfriend’s place tonight in Connecticut. Watching the Comcast Celtics broadcast and they’re pretty boring. Does anyone who live in Connecticut have MSG?

    The Celtic announcers are one of the worst in the league. Heinsohn is just embarrassingly bad at his job. It’d be like if MSG fired Clyde only to replace him with Mike Woodson (after he’s done pretending to be a coach).

  32. Kahnzy

    I forgot all about MWP. It’d be nice if he could find a way to be serviceable off the bench for 10-15 min/game.

  33. maxwell_3g

    col;e and jeremy. 35 minutes. 17 and 9 with 3 blocks. i hate woodson for not giving these guys a chance. im also convinced that toure could be helpful if given consistent, yet limited, minutes. its tough to succeed when you play once every week or two

  34. maxwell_3g

    did woodson lose the tie from the beginning?? is this a new thing? is he following kidd’s lead?

  35. johnno

    Re: Tyler’s playing time — in fairness, Tyler has been on the team for less than a month and was only on the roster for 7 games before Woodson started putting him in games.

  36. yellowboy90

    I don’t know why but Tyler reminds me of Kurt Thomas. Not his game but he just has that kind of vibe to me. His game reminds me of a young Nene.

  37. DRed

    Woodson says the team's pace is better as a result of small-ball. Team seems more committed at this point, in his opinion.— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) January 29, 2014

    SMH. The coach is dumb, man.

  38. BigBlueAL

    The players, as dumb as most of them seem are basketball wise, are still alot smarter than their coach apparently.

  39. lavor postell

    Bargnani’s still a big part of what we’re trying to do here as a ball club. He’s a part of the puzzle and I’ve got to get him going.

  40. nicos

    Does anyone know if the contract Tyler signed had a team option for next year? I seem to recall that the one he signed over the summer did but I’m not sure if the new one did as well. It’d suck if he keeps playing well and the Knicks lose him like they lost Copeland.

  41. Brian Cronin

    Does anyone know if the contract Tyler signed had a team option for next year? I seem to recall that the one he signed over the summer did but I’m not sure if the new one did as well. It’d suck if he keeps playing well and the Knicks lose him like they lost Copeland.

    They have still not released details on Tyler’s new contract.

  42. Tony Pena

    But really, Woodson HAD to give the team 11 million dollar acquisition a try. A real, good, long try. Now he wen’t over by about 30 games or so, but the idea was ok i think. If he gave him 10-15 mins a game and the Knicks would somehow still lose, the narrative would be “he doesn’t even know how to use him right!”.

  43. ruruland

    Finally got a chance to watch first half. Best the offense and JR Smith have looked all season.

    People forget that one of the main advantages of playing Melo at the 4 is the cross-match it forces opponents into on defense.

    Sullinger guarded Smith and Shumpert much of the game, which created a lot of the easy baskets and ball movements.

    When he’s making 3s, Bargnani at the 5 makes sense in doses. But there are so many reasons the Knicks are better with Melo at the 4 and two pg lineups.

  44. er

    OT Pacers were in LA for 3 days before tonight’s game where PG went 4-21 any guesses on what he was doing for those 3 days…….boy to be young and rich lol.

    Probably a 2 day party hahahaha

  45. ruruland

    The wondrous Bluecheese over at P+T: “Carmelo Anthony had 24 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, and 4 steals in just 28 minutes tonight. He is the first player to reach all those numbers in 28 minutes or fewer since Michael Jordan in December of 1990!”

  46. DRed

    When he’s making 3s, Bargnani at the 5 makes sense in doses. But there are so many reasons the Knicks are better with Melo at the 4 and two pg lineups.

    But what about the elite pick and pop performance?

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