Tuesday April 17th
Boston Celtics vs. New
Since becoming Head Coach of the Knicks, Mike Woodson has made it clear that the goal is to win the Atlantic Division and unseat the Boston Celtics. That would make tonight’s game against those Celtics, and virtually every game the rest of the season a must win game for the Knicks, who currently sit 4 games behind the Celtics for the division lead. A loss tonight would put the Knicks 5 ½ games behind the Celtics, putting the division out of reach. The Knicks also sit ½ game behind the 76ers for the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference and 2 games ahead of the Milwaukee Bucks, so the team realizes the importance of tonight’s game.
-Can they slow down Rondo?
Rajon Rondo is a main reason for the Celtics percolating since the All-Star break. Rondo is averaging 10 points, 13 assists, five rebounds and two steals in that time frame. He also shows up for games against the Knicks as he has averaged 13.8 assists per game in his last 10 against the Knicks, including the playoffs. Let us also not forget the historic game he put up last time out against the Knicks when he tallied 18 points 20 assists and 17 rebounds in a Celtics overtime win.
The onus of slowing down Rondo will fall upon Iman Shumpert. Shumpert has gained a reputation as one of the best perimeter defenders in the league and it will be interesting to see how he fares against Rondo tonight. It will come down to a team effort slowing down the dynamic Rondo, but it will start with Shumpert.
-Help Wanted, Capable Scorer
Carmelo Anthony is red-hot this month, scoring 40 points on two separate occasions and averaging 30 points a game since Amar’e Stoudemire and Jeremy Lin went down with injuries. Anthony will look to continue his streak tonight while at the same time looking for someone to give him some help until injured players return.
Iman Shumpert offered his opinion and he believes that the team has been caught being stagnant and standing around watching Carmelo Anthony do his thing on offense. He is definitely right, with Sunday being a good example as Anthony scored 42 points but the rest of the starters could muster only 19 points on 37% shooting.
Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith have seemed to be rotating who will step up, but neither have done it on a consistent enough basis to help take the onus off Anthony. Tyson Chandler has given some big games on the offensive end as well, but he is much more important to the Knicks defensive effort to ask him to be the 2nd option on offense as well. Who will it be to step up tonight for the Knicks if they are to pull off the victory?
-Bring the Pressure
The Knicks have to take the Celtics out of their comfort zone to be successful tonight. The Celtics are very methodical in how they go about their business so the Knicks should look to exploit this by playing high pressure defense and forcing turnovers to get into the open court. If the Knicks are able to control the tempo it will go a long way for them as they are obviously the underdogs against the Celtics. This will also help because the Knicks and Celtics are known for tight finishes.
The first two meetings this season were decided by 2 points each, with the first on Christmas day coming down to the wire. The most recent one was an overtime thriller in which the Celtics needed Paul Pierce to knock down a 3 pointer at the end of regulation. The Celtics then went on to take care of the Knicks in overtime.
With a close game almost all but guaranteed, the Knicks need to stay composed and not let the Celtics take them out of their game. The Knicks will have a raucous home crowd behind them and should use that to their advantage as they try to solidify their playoff standing and overtake the Celtics for the Atlantic Division crown.