Game Preview & Thread: Knicks @ Celtics

The New York Knicks have won four in a row and Phil Jackson is probably, definitely, maybe, kinda, coming on board too. To get to five in a row the Knicks will have to win on the road in Boston tonight. To get a better idea of what the Knicks are in for tonight I brought in Tom Westerholm of Celtics Hub and John Karalis of Reds Army.

The Boston Celtics have won just three of their last nine games coming into tonight. What has the team struggled with most lately? What are they doing well?

Tom: To be honest, they’ve played a lot better recently, and it’s almost entirely due to Rajon Rondo’s return. Rondo is playing like himself, and although he’s missing some explosiveness that probably won’t return before next year, his basketball IQ is more than high enough to at least partially make up the difference.

Also, Kelly Olynyk is looking better and better. But no one outside of Celtics Twitter really believes me on that.

John: Whenever the Celtics struggle, it’s usually the same story. They’re missing shots and they’re turning the ball over. The bottom line is nobody on Celtics right now is good enough to hit the same shot consistently every night. Jeff Green can’t do it. Rajon Rondo can’t do it. Nobody can. And all too often those poor shooting nights coincide with sloppy turnovers. That’s just the hallmark of the team that’s headed for the lottery rather than the playoffs. They’re just not very good.

Rajon Rondo has played 19 games now this season and although it’s a relatively small sample Rondo is shooting 33 percent from 3-point land. Obviously it’d be huge for Rondo’s game if he could become a league-average 3-point shooter, and he’s close to it. What do you make of his improvement thus far beyond the arc?

Tom: I think the improvements are real. I don’t think he’s ever going to be a 40 percent shooter from deep, but his stroke looks a lot better, which is a credit to Cs assistant coach Ron Adams who apparently tinkered with his form.

John: It’s one of those things that a guy can work on during a leg injury. Since he can’t run or jump, he can shoot. He’s not doing it consistently yet, which isn’t unexpected. It’s not only a process to get to that consistency, he’s also struggling with some muscle and tendon soreness that’s not uncommon for a player getting back into NBA-level ball after a long layoff. That soreness is why he won’t play in back-to-backs. It would be nice for him to have a feared jumper, though. He’s getting closer, and that will eventually make him extremely dangerous.

The Celtics didn’t end up moving Jeff Green at the deadline. What are your thoughts on Green long-term with the Celtics? Does the front office want to keep him on board for the rebuilding project?

John: I don’t think he’s going to be around for the long-term. I think they’re going to look into moving him this summer or at the draft, depending on the pick they get. He’s capable of having big nights, but he disappears way too much. In a different world where he could be a third option, he’d be ok. But at this money, on this team, he doesn’t fit like he used to. It’s a shame, because I think he’s a legitimately nice guy and he can really be exciting to watch on his “on” days, but I think his days are numbered.

Tom: Meh. The “rebuilding around Jeff Green” talk, I think, was largely motivated by a desire to drive up his trade value. Boston was in a position where they could ask for whatever they wanted from whomever they wanted. If the other team bit, great! If not, fine. The Cs didn’t have to make a move if nobody offered a crazy good trade, and nobody did, so they stood pat. Green can be part of the rebuild, but he’s certainly not an essential piece.

Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk have had solid sophomore and rookie campaign this season. What do you like and dislike about each? Who figures to be the better big going forward?

Tom: Sullinger is big and strong. He’s developing a reliable jumper, and his positioning for rebounds is excellent. I like his low post game, although he’s not quite big enough to make it a full staple. That’s always going to be the knock on him — he’s strong and talented, but he’s a little undersized.

Olynyk’s jumper is improving steadily, which is opening up the rest of his game nicely. If teams can hang back on him, he’s not athletic enough (or long enough) to get to the basket. If they have to chase him to the 3-point line, he becomes deadly. That’s what’s been happening recently, and it’s opened up driving lanes for him. Olynyk’s also a sneaky decent rebounder, which is fun.

The knock on Olynyk is pretty basic — he’s slow, unathletic and he has T-Rex arms. But defensively, he’s learning to move his feet much better, and he’s very fluid on offense, which makes up for a bunch of his inadequacies athletically. I’m actually very high on Olynyk, unlike many people.

John: I like Sully’s ability to use his body and get to the rim both as a rebound and on offense. He’s undersized, but he’s got great footwork and body control, which allows him to be fairly effective against bigger guys. His downside right now is his insistence on shooting the 3, which is currently pretty inconsistent (and that’s putting it nicely). Maybe it will come around some day, but it’s not falling nearly enough to justify how many he takes.

Olynyk is a very versatile big who can get from the 3 point line to the rim if you’re not careful. His second half has been pretty good thanks to a big boost of confidence after being included in the rising stars challenge. His potential is pretty high, I think.

As for who will be better… I’m not sure that’s entirely fair because I see them doing different things. I actually like them on the floor together, especially in today’s more versatile, “positionless” NBA. They’re both high-IQ guys who are willing and capable passers. Olynyk has better range and Sullinger is a better rebounder. Both guys should work to improve both of those areas, but I really think they can work well alongside each other.

Who ultimately wins tonight and why?

Tom: The Celtics need to lose. The Knicks need to win. The problem for both teams is that I still have no idea which way it will go. But if past games are any indicator, it’ll be a blowout one way or the other.

John: Without Rondo, I’m going with the Knicks. I’m not 100% confident in that, though, considering what the Knicks have been. But while they’re bad, the Celtics are worse… and they’re even worse without Rondo in the mix.

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Chase Thomas

Chase Thomas is new to KnickerBlogger but has written about the Knicks for years now. Was in attendance for Nate Robinson's 41 point night versus the Hawks. Successfully annoyed Allan Houston's assistant for talking his ear off while sitting next to him at a Knicks game 3 years ago. Follow him on twitter:

98 thoughts to “Game Preview & Thread: Knicks @ Celtics”

  1. Because everything with the Knicks has to be too much.

    Bill Simmons reports (for real) that the Phil Jackson to the Knicks movement started because Phil was lobbying for the Lakers job, and then started to lobby for the Nets job to put more pressure on Jim Buss. Irving Azoff – the man who made the EAGLES millions – heard that Jackson was trying to get Billy King’s job and went to his buddy Jim Dolan and told him to get into the bidding. Jackson threw a bunch of outlandish demands at Dolan – who kept saying yes. Dolan got Bill Bradley to join the lobbying. Meanwhile, Buss would not budge and now Jackson is on the verge of taking the job.

    I feel like Charlie Brown approaching the football for the hundreth time. Lucy has promised that she is not going to pull it away. I’m skeptical, but I am also thinking about how great it will be to finally kick that ball.

  2. Eh, Bill Simmons says that is his “theory”. It may actually be very close to what happened and he says he is definitely right about parts, but I am not sure how much of that is speculation. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be worried about Lucy pulling the ball away from you though.

  3. We don’t need no Phil Jackson. We’re on the verge of forcing our way into the playoffs for another miracle run as the 8th seed! Indiana is floundering and are ripe for getting their shit upset in the first round! Hoo-ah!

  4. Grandmama replacing Wally in the studio. I feel like the worm has turned for this team. Cole leads us to a comfortable 8-12 point win tonight

  5. Simmons is straight up reporting the Azoff connection, so if Phil Jackson finally comes to MSG, it will be directly attributable to Guitar Jimmy wanting to hang with Henley, Walsh & Frey.

    Meanwhile, the Knicks look great in the first five minutes.

  6. Cole Aldrich is in and the Knicks are up 20-7. Celtics have to call a time out.

    So I’m guessing Woodson takes Cole out when play resumes…

  7. Seriously, the Celtics are not good. This is not a scary game, with or without STAT and Chandler.

  8. @Brian – The Knicks have lost this year to the Bucks, the Sixers and the Hawks (in the middle of losing 13 out of 14). Every game is scary.

  9. @Brian – The Knicks have lost this year to the Bucks, the Sixers and the Hawks (in the middle of losing 13 out of 14). Every game is scary.


  10. What was it the Knicks just did there? When Boston was running on the break and the Knicks ran with them to prevent an easy shot. What’s that called? Is that a new play?

  11. That was a rhetorical question, because if Cole had started they wouldn’t be losses

    If only Cole could be our starting PG, we’d be the #1 seed for sure.

  12. Am I weird if I’m flipping between the Knicks game and Kings-76ers? So much bad basketball but can’t stop watching

  13. Cole Aldrich has two skills: rebounding and protecting the rim with post position defense. He might make a good tandem with Stat.

  14. When Earl Clark hits a three pointer I think you just call the game and award the win to the Knicks, right? Isn’t that in the rules?

  15. I remember clamoring for more Country Cole once Tyson went down with that fractured tibia. Even started him alongside STAT in 2k sometimes, with mixed results. But I think it is obvious just from how the team is playing that he is “Big,” but not “Lane-Clogging Big.” Tyson, more often than not, is “Lane-Clogging Big.”

  16. I mean, did I tell you all or what?

    I believe the custom here is to change your name to reflect that you got something right so we can never ever forget it.

  17. @ephus

    Cole also does lefty jump hooks

    Big Smile!

    Cole Aldrich is “lane clogging big” – it’s just on the defensive end. So long as he avoids picking up more defensive 3 seconds, he is a defensive asset.

  18. I feel a bit wary about Phil Jackson because his high salary. It is as if he just came here because we kept throwing money at him. Although he might be more objective than someone that just loves the team and would work for free, i think he might just feel disinterested when things don’t go his way.

    Who cares about Phil’s salary? It doesn’t affect the Knicks’ cap number and it’s Dolan’s pocket change, which I am all too happy to see him parted with.

  19. the Phil Jackson to the Knicks movement started because Phil was lobbying for the Lakers job, and then…Jackson threw a bunch of outlandish demands at Dolan – who kept saying yes.

    Tracy Jordan once shot a movie without getting out of his car… And it was a Western.

    Phil is going to run this team, literally, without leaving his old Laker’s office.

  20. got the celtics feed. heinsohn seems to have developed a strange respect and admiration for melo. would not have guessed that.

    he also lusts for TH2

  21. The Knicks are playing defense on-a-string better tonight than any other game that I can recall this year. Blue jerseys are actually moving off of the ball as the Celtics swing the ball.

  22. THJ is making me eat my words about hitting the rookie wall. Great first half.

    I don’t think so. He did hit a wall for 4 or 5 games in a row. He’s just broken through it starting last game against the Sixers.

  23. Also am I the only one excited about the possibility that Phil Jackson is capable of instituting a culture of nurturing young talent like THJ and Shumpy? Jackson’s greatest strength is empathy for players and that’s really the biggest thing Shump needs for his development right now.

  24. the fact that tyler has gotten 3:30 and toure has not played makes me a little sad. of course, you cant take minutes from the Cole-Train

  25. In the absence of Kenyon Martin, Aldrich really should get PT when the Knicks need defense and rebounding when Chandler sits.

  26. Chill out. Put your feet up. Cole got this

    When you just need a stop, funnel their players to Cole. When you just need a bucket, feed Cole. It’s all so simple.

  27. Jeremy Tyler can only hope to one day become the kind of dominant force that Cole Aldrich is.

  28. JR Smith took the longest possible route to try to catch up with Jeff Green as he ran off two screens. Was not within 5′ when Green launched (and made) a 3 from above the break.

  29. Bargnani: mama Mia, coach is starting me because the East is big, man

    Cole: Oh, you think the bigness is your ally, but you merely adopted the paint. I was born in it, molded by it. I didn’t see the perimeter until I was already a man; by then, it was nothing to me but blinding! The rebounds betray you, because they belong to me!

  30. i was going to complain how it looks like melo is going to have to play this one to the end…..but you guys are right, i just need to roll one up, grab a brew, and enjoy everything that is Cole

  31. 4th quarter. Boston making a run. Knicks are on their heels.

    Enter Cole Adlrich. It’s his time.

  32. Aldrich just did three things to Sullinger that Tyler cannot:

    1. Stayed in front of Sullinger.
    2. Did not jump on the shot.
    3. Contested the shot with hands up and did not foul.

  33. anybody notice teams’ benches (the Nets, the Kings, and others) who get up and point their arms in the air and then use the other hand like they are racking a gun after a teammate hits a 3. someone was doing it when we got jimmered. allen anderson just did it when paul pierce hit a three a minute ago. considering all of the stupid things that the NBA worries about (see, disallowing the name washington bullets, JR Smith and shoelaces, dress codes) how has stern/ silver not addressed this?

  34. Aldrich just did three things to Sullinger that Tyler cannot:

    1. Stayed in front of Sullinger.
    2. Did not jump on the shot.
    3. Contested the shot with hands up and did not foul.

    Hey!!!!! Im all for the Cole train (who isnt), but lets not jump on Tyler!!! cant we just talk shit about tyson??

  35. Cole goes out early in the 3rd with foul troubles. Boston makes a threatening run.

    Cole comes back early in the 4th, Knicks go back up.

    Coincidence? I think not.

  36. All joking aside, Cole is a solid player. Definitely should have played a lot more this year. let’s hope Phil is watching tonight

  37. Cole Aldrich protects the rim, like THCJ protects his reputation for prognostication.

  38. Brooklyn with a 96-95 win at Miami with no Garnett or Kirilenko. They are 3-0 now against Miami on the season.

  39. let’s hope Phil is watching tonight

    Nah. His contract stipulates he only has to watch home games.

  40. I think Tyler can become a solid rotation big man. Right now, his offense is far ahead of his defense. He leaves his feet too quickly, jumps towards the shooter and, as a result, picks up lots of fouls.

  41. Brooklyn with a 96-95 win at Miami with no Garnett or Kirilenko. They are 3-0 now against Miami on the season.

    Jason Kidd really knows how to beat that team.

  42. It’s about time an end-of-the-bench Knick had a career night after watching the end-of-benches for other teams routinely have career nights against us.

  43. Also, they should take tonights game ball and have Cole Aldrich sign it for that Garden of Dreams raffle.

  44. Doesn’t get Knicks-ier than Woodson going “big” all season (ostensibly) and benching Cole Aldrich until game 66. *Prolonged sigh*

  45. just checked NBA League Store. The are not fully stocked in Aldrich jerseys yet. what are they waiting on?

  46. just checked NBA League Store. The are not fully stocked in Aldrich jerseys yet. what are they waiting on?

    Maybe they’ve all just sold out within the past 2 hours?

  47. I think my favorite thing is that this is garbage time, and Cole isn’t in the game. He gets to sit the with core rotation guys.

  48. Maybe my destiny is to be Cole’s ruru, and follow him from message board to message board, spreading the gospel of Aldrich

  49. Why did Spero Dedes just claim this was the most lopsided victory of the season for the Knicks? They’ve actually had several wins more lopsided than this I can recall without even looking at their schedule.

  50. I was just about to say, yeah, it’s not even the first time they’ve beaten the Celtics, specifically, by 24 or more!


  51. For any of the older Kb’ers was Jackson a crowd favorite as a player with the Knicks? Are there any similarities between his offensive and defensive coaching strategies and those employed by the Holzman era Knicks? I know the game has changed a lot, but I’m just curious.

  52. Phil Jackson was the ultimate glue guy. He was a great defender, strong rebounder and filled the lane on the break. He was in such phenomenal shape, he was forced to sit out an extended portion of a season for having a resting pulse rate that was too low.

    You can see the Holtzman influence in Jackson’s defense. He believed in athletic wings attacking the passing lanes with a strong center playing one-on-one in the post.

  53. I’ve been meaning to ask, why has Aldrich gained the moniker “Country Cole”? Dude’s from a suburb of Minneapolis – he’s practically Canadian! I move we start calling him “Mountie Cole”.

  54. I would like to credit Owen for creating the Country Cole nickname. Helluva game from our boy Cole

  55. Thanks ephus. Always nice to hear information about the Knicks I didn’t get a chance to watch in my lifetime. Unfortunately I do have vast knowledge of Knick players like Shandon Andersen, Erick Strickland, Howard Eisley, Fred Jones, Al Harrington, etc.

  56. Or “industrial strength solvent” guys, as you might call them.

    Ray Felton and J.R. Smith are “solvent” guys.

  57. – Hah! I almost forgot about Erick Strickland. Was that during the Frank Williams era?
    – I was switching between Knicks vs Celtics, Heat vs. Nets, and Modern Family. From what I remember from the Celtics broadcast (CSN, I live in CT) one of the announcers liked Melo, Prigioni, and THJr.
    – I’m convinced that our wins against the Heat last year were because of Jason Kidd.

  58. Greg Anthony on NBATV just confirmed PJ being hired by the Knicks. Of all the people to actually confirm it being official, didnt think Greg Anthony would be the guy lol.

  59. I can’t take credit for the “country cole” moniker. Someone more clever than I came up with it.

    Great game from him tonight. Somewhere in downtown nyc Mike K is a very happy and vindicated man.

    My wife also loves him now while being somewhat bizarrely fixated on the fact he seemed to be missing a front tooth in the on court interview, which he possibly replaced with a fake tooth in the locker room.

    Amazing what she gets from the games. I was meanwhile droning on in the background about TS%….

  60. Its so cute that the NBATV crew are talking about PJ’s influence on the head coach if Mike Woodson is let go. If. LOL

  61. Also Aldridge just had a nasty injury. Had to get helped off the floor and it did not look pretty.

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