Tonight, Boston will be without point guard Rajon Rondo, who is serving a one-game suspension for bumping official Rodney Mott as well as failure to cooperate with a league investigation.
What needs to be done to keep things rolling?
The first key to earning a victory tonight is playing as a team. Defensively, the Celtics need to play on a string and feature crisp rotations, hindering New York’s shooters. The return of Avery Bradley has helped the team tremendously in this department.
Offensively, the team will have to utilize efficient ball movement and hit shots in order to control the pace of the game, despite not having Rondo. The team should also look to test the Knicks defense, trying to create open shots by making them rotate and taking advantage of the entire twenty-four second shot clock.
The second key to picking up a win against the number one team in the Atlantic Division (pains me to say that) is rebounding. New York is shooting 45 percent from the field and 38 percent from three-point range; they do not need to be afforded second and third opportunities.
The last two games, Doc Rivers club has done a superb job of rebounding as a team. In both contests, the Celtics made a conscious effort to box out and to have multiple players aggressively pursue missed shots. This played a large role in both victories.
A match up to highlight in regards to this element of the game is Kevin Garnett against Tyson Chandler. “The Big Ticket” will need to keep the bigger, more physical Chandler off the glass.
You can also be sure that Amar’e Stoudemire will look to win over Knicks fans with hustle. The Celtics cannot let him make an impact on the boards, something that will also ignite the crowd.
Tonight’s third key is the guards being able to fight over the top of screens. Aside from creating easier shots for the Knicks, the majority of Chandler’s baskets come when he rolls to the basket after setting a pick. Garnett will have to make sure to get back and prevent the alley-oop or an easy dunk. This puts more pressure on Boston’s guards to fight through screens and get over the top of them, allowing KG to get back. When this does not occur, the defense will be put in a rather difficult bind.
The fourth key is an intangible but is just as important; the Celtics must be able to handle the crowd! Madison Square Garden is one of the loudest buildings in the NBA and regardless of what is going on in the game; the fans have the ability to create momentum for New York. Boston must display the necessary maturity to not let the crowd impact them as well as withstand any run the fans attempt to help generate.
This is a huge test for both sides. Expect a raucous crowd tonight, as Knicks fans look to this game as a means of validating the hot-start the team has gotten off to.
The fifth and final key is the bench. Boston has just ten active players tonight and anyone who see’s the court, needs to make an impact. Charged with the task of defending Carmelo Anthony, Jeff Green faces a larger test than any other member of the second-unit. If Green can be effective at the defensive end, it should help him produce on offensive, and help the Celtics get one of their most impressive wins of the season.