The last time these two teams met, Boston earned arguably it’s most significant win of the season in a heated contest at Madison Square Garden.
Tonight, the Celtics will need to play with the same passion and energy that they displayed in the first contest. Furthermore, there can be no lapses. They must compete for the full 48 minutes.
The first key is team defense. This is the team’s identity, something that was most evident during the recent six-game win streak that now has a distant feel to it.
When Boston is forcing misses, it allows them to get transition baskets. It is in transition that the Celtics, like most teams, are the most unselfish. With everyone running the floor and involved in the offense, it makes for a more engaged and active team at the defensive end.
This will also ignite what figures to be a raucous crowd.
It should be noted that while he only had 9 points, Steve Novak did go 3-3 from three-point range in the first match up. Three-pointers are an important asset for a road team. Boston must contain one of the league’s best shooters from beyond the arc and force the specialist to shoot the ball off his spot and with a hand in his face.
Tonight’s second key is team offense. The Knicks allow 96.3 points per game. If Boston meets that number, it would be disappointing not to win, especially at home.
While a Paul Pierce isolation is often successful, utilizing good ball movement and keeping players in motion is much more potent as well more sustainable over the course of the game.
The Celtics need to be aggressive and attack the basket. It is pivotal that the team is able to get to the foul line.
The third key is the second-unit. The bench needs to bring energy and maintain and build leads.
In the last meeting, the bench went for 39 points and excelled in the aforementioned areas.
Jason Terry needs to hit his shots, Courtney Lee and Jeff Green need to get to the basket and Jared Sullinger needs to continue to provide energy by playing physical and being a presence on the boards.