Game Thread: Knicks vs. Celtics

It gets harder and harder to focus game threads on the specific games to which they’re attached, I must confess. The Knicks are playing their enemy tonight and it could end up being a good, spirited game. I always feel like the Knicks can beat this Celtics team. Two of the three best players on the floor play for the Knicks. The rest of the best players on the floor from 4-10 are all Celtics, though, with the exception of Robin Lopez who deserves to be in that mix somewhere. The inevitable storyline before every game is: Which opposing guards, or guards, will light the Knicks up tonight?

The Knicks were 22-22 and we were all feeling fairly optimistic about the rest of the season. The last 18 games have been an unmitigated disaster and we’ve seen the firing of a coach and a lot of booing at the Garden as the new coach has failed at every aspect of his interim position. We had an unfortunate Jimmer circus. We have a new Melo circus. The owner’s name has suddenly found its way into the tabloids again. How long before Isia……I’m not going to even say it.

I think many of us have a strong suspicion about the Knicks’ biggest problem during the 18 game Armageddon. The guards can’t stop anyone, and they can’t make up for their defensive shortcomings with a balancing offensive contribution. They’re terrible at defense and mediocre, at best, on offense. I decided to go back and look at the disparity between our starting guards’ performances over 18 games as compared to the performances of the starting guards on the opposition. Before I share the numbers with you, I’ll note that the Knicks largely go with the Calderon/Afflalo starting backcourt, but Galloway either started in Calderon’s place, or played the bulk of the minutes at the point for a stretch of five games in the middle of the plummet. Calderon was hurt. Likewise, in a recent game the Knicks started Calderon and Galloway in the backcourt with Afflalo at the small forward when Melo sat. Mainly, this is all Calderon/Afflalo.

During the 18 game slide, the Knicks starting backcourt has put up:

.407 FG%, .917 FT% (on 2.7 combined attempts a game), 20 points, 7.7 rebounds, 6.1 assists, 1.6 steals, 2.6 TOs with 2.3 3PM per game. That’s the average numbers of BOTH guards. If you split the numbers in half to create an artificial “per player” set of averages it looks much, much worse, obviously. You can do that math quickly in your head, and chase it with a couple of aspirin.

During the 18 game slide, the opposition’s starting backcourt has put up:

.439 FG%, .818 FT% (on 8.6 combined attempts per game!), 35.3 points, 8.5 rebounds, 11 assists, 2.5 steals, 3.5 TOs with 3.3 3PM per game. 

The FTA differential is pretty staggering (the Knicks are -6). The point differential is also pretty staggering (-15). Melo leads the team in points, rebounds, and assists on the season (the only player in the league to do that), so it’s no surprise that the Knicks starting backcourt has been -5 in assists throughout this collapse. I don’t want to suggest the Knicks struggles can be so easily reduced to this one slice of information. There are a lot of problems, frankly, and while the guards are a big part of it, there are other things that can be said as well. That said, you can’t put yourself in a 15 point hole every night because your backcourt is bad on both ends. The hole gets bigger, in terms of overall contribution, if you acknowledge the impact the assist number may have. Although it’s imperfect to make assumptions about assists from the straight counting numbers, you’re talking about an additional number of points in the Knicks’ hole, depending on which non-starting guard makes the shots on the other end of the passes. It’s not a stretch to say that the Knicks starting backcourt is regularly -15 or more to their counterparts. That’s where all the fake comebacks are born.

The Celtics come in on a tear. I’m too lazy to go back and look at their winning streak, but they’ve been on a month+ tear in which they’ve established themselves as a team no one wants to play during the playoffs. The irony is, if you go back and look at the scores and the individual performances, the Boston club known for its tough defense has been on a winning tear by scoring a boat load of points. The Celtics have played good defense during their recent success, but they’ve also won and lost a lot of games in the 110s. The starting backcourt of Isaiah Thomas (note the extra ‘a’) and Avery Bradley have been combining for 40 points a game for a very long stretch now. What’s more, it isn’t all Isaiah Thomas going off for 30-35 and Avery Bradley tagging along with a smattering of points. Those two guys are hovering around 20 points a game each. Bradley has spent the last month dropping around 17 points on close to 50% shooting from the field. Thomas does what Thomas always does.

This is a nightmare scenario for the Knicks. During the 18 game slide, noting all the numbers I provided above, there were some Mudiay/Gary Harris nights and there were some Lowry/Derozan and Wall/Beal nights. The results were predictably different and the level of basketball bloodshed was proportionally gruesome. Thomas/Bradley seems, on paper, like some middle ground between the extremes, but the way they’ve been playing for more than a month promises to be more Wall/Beal than Mudiay/Harris. The Knicks might take solace in knowing that the last “down game” either of the Celtics’ guards had was a 6-point stinker by Bradley against New York. When you consider that the Boston guards have been stellar over an extended stretch and that the Knicks guards are typically -15 in points, tonight’s scenario starts from there. Add on top of it the notion that Jae Crowder does a respectable job on Melo and can score in his own right, you’re looking to Porzingis and Lopez to make up a ton of slack. That’s the game in a nutshell.

The good news is, there will be no Jimmer chanting in Boston tonight, and there’s no shot any of us hear thunderous booing of the Knicks unless it’s coming from our own living rooms. The team will undoubtedly benefit from being away from the toxicity of the Garden and the prying eyes of James Dolan, who usually appears like a vulture to pick at the carcass of another failed Knicks experiment. The Knicks, hopefully, can concentrate on basketball and maybe steal one against a good Celtics team. That would feel nice.

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141 thoughts to “Game Thread: Knicks vs. Celtics”

  1. It would be a lot easier to care about these games if the team was looking towards their future. Hopefully Jerian will see meaningful minutes tonight.

  2. two of the three best players on the floor play for the Knicks.

    Melo (eh, maybe) and ?

  3. Our new rally cry:

    “Let’s deny Toronto a higher draft pick. Go, team!”

    Catchy, isn’t it?

  4. The Knicks and the Nuggets both finishing in the bottom ten would be insanely difficult to take, and yet, that’s where we are currently heading. Thank goodness at least the Nuggets seem to be poised to finish with a worse record than the Knicks. That’s a tiny, tiny, tiny bit of something.

  5. It would be nice to pull off an upset, I have a friend in Boston who’s already talking about who their chances in the 2nd round of the playoffs.

    Fuck the Celtics!!!!

  6. I think this might be a bit of a trap game for the Celtics. I might just be trying to convince myself that, but still…

  7. If playing Jerian Grant and (say) some dleague signing might make the Knicks better next year then you play them even if we lose. That pick is long gone. Trying to win games this year so our past mistakes aren’t quite as humiliating is classic Knicks idiocy

  8. Not just any coach can take a good team and have them play well. But gosh, he does it the right way. Hard working. Respectful. Not like some of those coaches with the flashy suits and the big mouths.

  9. I’m really impressed by the Sixers’ ability to sign so many players who cannot make open jump shots. Really impressed.

  10. watching isaiah thomas try to weave through calderon and afflalo in transition looks a lot like the skills challenge

  11. We can lose tonight, on second thought. I’ll take a Porzingis 45 point performance or a win.

    Our guards are really useless. It’s amazing.

  12. Not just any coach can take a good team and have them play well. But gosh, he does it the right way. Hard working. Respectful. Not like some of those coaches with the flashy suits and the big mouths.

    The narrative is, of course, as you note, very odious, but he still is a pretty darn good coach.

  13. If playing Jerian Grant and (say) some dleague signing might make the Knicks better next year then you play them even if we lose. That pick is long gone. Trying to win games this year so our past mistakes aren’t quite as humiliating is classic Knicks idiocy

    Oh, definitely, but since we both know that’s not going to happen, then I figure I’d prefer it to be as least embarrassing as possible, as having the most embarrassing result possible (the Curry trade) didn’t change their approach, so embarrassing them doesn’t even work. So I’ll just hope to avoid it.

  14. We could use Turner at any point in his career. Dude produces the best quotes in the NBA.

    Also, was that O’Quinn shot an attempt at the Triangle? After the entry pass and cut, all five guys just stood there and waited for nothing to happen. Hilariously stupid.

  15. Dear NBA,
    Please fix the BROKEN League Pass app for Roku. Once again tonight it does not work. So again I’ll watch on computer rather than my 42″ TV.
    Thank you.

    On the bright side, Grant is at least in the game.

  16. Is it just me, or did that feel like the longest first quarter ever?

    These are two deeply un-entertaining teams.

  17. What’s not entertaining about the Celtics? Look at Brad Stevens over there coaching like a real coach. He got Evan Turner to play like a slightly better version of Evan Turner in his age 27 season. He’s a real life Hoosiers movie but if the scrappy white team was a coach instead of a bunch of players.

  18. So let’s see. They’re getting easy interior baskets so why not sit Porzingis down, Kurt you’re an idiot!

  19. ptmilo, my PC version says that the game is unavailable due to “technical difficulties” since halftime. I’ve seen this several times this year on the PC. Roku is worse, many times it either won’t load the game or keeps glitching out after a while. Right now I’m sort of watching on a very glitchy android tablet…

    The MLB service works way better than the NBA.

  20. The Celtics play such an annoying brand of basketball. I don’t know what it is with that organization, but they always seem to play a dirty and ugly style. I hate them.

  21. ptmilo, my PC version says that the game is unavailable due to “technical difficulties”

    Technically this team is difficult to watch

  22. I know it doesn’t mean anything in the grand scheme of things but it would be pretty nice to win this game tonight.

  23. Actually, a win tonight could be huge. The Celtics could continue to pine for Melo, and perhaps a trade can be worked out in the offseason, as long as Melo is willing to play in front of the “crybaby” Boston crowd.

  24. That’s where the Knicks got worse. The bench is so bad all of a sudden. Galloway and Lance Thomas have both been negatives on offense after starting the season red hot.

  25. @46, somebody has to teach KP to breathe through his nose. That mouth breathing stuff is terrible.

  26. Seriously, when is the last time Galloway hit a shot??!! Wasn’t he 0-fer last game, too?

  27. I know it doesn’t mean anything in the grand scheme of things but it would be pretty nice to win this game tonight.

    A loss wouldn’t change anything for the development of the team (even if it should), so yes, pull for a win. I am!

  28. That Thomas three attempt was much uglier than Melo’s ugly three attempt.

  29. So, my PC app just started working again, and here’s a weird one. The game on the PC is about 1 full minute ahead of the one on Android!

  30. This team really knows how to twist and play with your emotions. No lead is ever safe because they play some really ugly ball down the stretch ugh

  31. The Jae Crowder leak out. Sheesh. You think they would be aware. Then again maybe they are just slooooow

  32. Heroball again, but this time it falls. Good, let the Celtics continue to love Melo!

  33. I really enjoy Porzingis’ absence.

    Good…”shot” (shot?) by Lopez there. Ugh.

  34. We did a great job using up the clock there! That’s why we play the veterans in crunch time.

  35. I thought Rolo would’ve hit calderon cutting to the basket. Hopefully Melo gets a good look

  36. This offensive strategy is moronic, but what a shot!! What a tough, tough shot. This is the most clutch he’s been in a while. Maybe that Philly three?

  37. That shot by Melo looked like it was gonna be an airball but it swished right in.

  38. When Melo does stuff like that, it’s hard for me to scream “Trade Melo!” That was gorgeous.

  39. Hey whattaya know they passed it around and Melo hit a turn around step back one footer shot.

  40. Anyone surprised? Melo basically dribbles the clock out, and then has to force a ridiculously bad shot.

  41. HAHAHAHAHAHA THAT DUDE JUST GOT LEFT SO HANGIN

    LET THE TRADE RUMORS MOUNT

  42. Anyone surprised? Melo basically dribbles the clock out, and then has to force a ridiculously bad shot.

    “They’re not going to foul me, right? I can just dribble this clock down without it being an issue, right?”

  43. I dunno what’s worse, the ending to the game or the fact that KP and Grant combined to play only 23 minutes.

  44. Whatever the coaching equivalent of dunking on someone is, Brad Stevens just posterized Rambis.

  45. Massive I was thinking the same thing. Fire Rambis now. Tie Melo up and make him watch Jeremy Lin highlight films until he recants his NTC. And sign a fucking guard already Phil!

  46. At least Melo didn’t torture us with a shot that had any chance of seeming like it might go in.

  47. Let’s not crucify Melo for the end game play. Everyone legit just got out the way and stood in the same spot. That’s TERRIBLE coaching. Horrid. He didn’t even have the option of beating Crowder and throwing a pass to Afflalo or something. It was just all around dumb shit.

  48. The Knicks had nothing set up for not having a time out. Also they let the Celtics score at will to close it out.

    As for KP his stamina isn’t good

  49. Reub, it wouldn’t matter. Rambis won’t play any new guys. Grant got 3 minutes tonight. 3.

  50. Apparently trying to get a high percentage shot is not considered. They Celtics drive for a layup in three seconds. The Knicks back down from half court for 14 of 17, get the foul to give and then try a Steph Curry shot.

  51. Let’s not crucify Melo for the end game play. Everyone legit just got out the way and stood in the same spot. That’s TERRIBLE coaching. Horrid. He didn’t even have the option of beating Crowder and throwing a pass to Afflalo or something. It was just all around dumb shit.

    Was it horrid coaching? Sure, but the backing down the clock was unlikely a Rambis thing so much as the play being “Do what you want” play call.

  52. I think the best thing this franchise can do is trade Phil and Melo to LAL for D Russell and a 1st rounder, Fire Rambis, and grab people from the Spurs’ front office.

    Well, the best thing short of Dolan selling his team.

  53. Whatever you want to say about Phil Jackson and the players he was fortunate to coach he is still arguably the greatest coach in NBA history. How the hell can he watch this team being so poorly coached and not do anything about it??

  54. Let’s not crucify Melo for the end game play. Everyone legit just got out the way and stood in the same spot. That’s TERRIBLE coaching

    We said that for Mike D’Antoni, Mike Woodson, Derek Fisher and now Rambis. It’s weird how every coach with Melo calls the same fucking stupid end game play.

  55. What kinda coach coaches his team to just do what they want, though? Melo isn’t LeBron or Steph Curry or KD or James Harden. You don’t let him do as he pleases. Not even a high ball screen? No spacing? Nothing? That was just a terrible team effort.

  56. Rambis’ rotation has all the flaws of Fisher’s and also is freezing out Porzingis. Great!

  57. Woodson, Fisher, and Rambis are all terrible coaches though. And Mike D’Antoni wasn’t the greatest game manager, either. That was dumb all around.

  58. Here’s one, Lance Thomas had more minutes than Porzingis, Grant, and DWill combined…

  59. I don’t think woody was that bad. He was bad, but not terrible like the last two asshats

  60. Also, what’s with Gallo and the kamikaze 1 on 5 fast breaks? I don’t even want to talk about his suspect d this year.

  61. Grant was ass when he was out there. Like real bad. Porzingis was tired. Now Dwill I just don’t get, even when fisher was here

  62. er, in 3 minutes Grant was 1-1 with a steal. Yes, he had 2 turnovers that were not good. He hit as many shots in 3 minutes as Galloway (1-7) did in 23 with vastly overrated D. Galloway sucks and has no upside. Sorry.

  63. To the point of not being able to play down the stretch at all? He was inserted with 2 min left! He never asked to come out, did he?
    edit – quote: “Porzingis was tired”

  64. er, in 3 minutes Grant was 1-1 with a steal. Yes, he had 2 turnovers that were not good. He hit as many shots in 3 minutes as Galloway (1-7 did in 23).

    You don’t swap Grant and Galloway-you swap them with Jose or Afflalo. This bozo is out there trying to win games like we’re gunning for home court through the finals. Grant and Galloway should both be getting 30 minutes a night-who gives a shit if we win or lose (big picturewise-I still get annoyed when I’m watching a game like tonight)

  65. @131 Just adds to the legend that Rambis doesn’t like to play young guys…

    @130 Yeah, KP wasn’t THAT tired.

  66. @130 I agree he should have been put in with like 5 mins left. But even then his mins wouldn’t have been high.

    Idk how rambis can say Melo has too much on his shoulders then doesn’t put KP in til there is 40 secs left

  67. I mean Grant is fucking awful, but I’d rather we play him than Calderon or Afflalo. It would just show management understood where this team was.

  68. Say what you want about Fisher’s coaching aptitude, but at least he had the sense to play Porzingis more than 20 minutes. I still don’t get how Calderon and Afflalo play nearly 40 minutes EACH when the team is repeatedly getting torched in the paint because of their inability to stop penetration.

  69. Self interest is taking over. Rambis, delusional or not, is coaching for a job next season. Either as an assistant on somebody else’s staff or as this team’s HC next year. That’s why he’s playing Melo so many minutes; he wants to look good to somebody like Luke Walton as a decent assistant to add to his LA Lakers’ coaching staff (because you just know Walton is going there in the summer).

    I hate this. Kurt will be back on TV next year. Melo will probably still be a Knick, and we’ll sign Mario Chalmers to a 5 year, $90 million deal.

  70. At least if Rambis was playing Grant more he’d have a better excuse for his lack of success.

  71. Is it possible that Kurt Rambis is the worst coach in the NBA, even worse than the dreaded Byron Scott?

    I’m not sure that he IS worse than Byron, but the fact that I don’t immediately reject the idea isn’t promising.

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