In their third of four preseason tune-ups, the Knicks head to TD Garden tonight to take on the Boston Celtics. Last game, the Knicks lost in an underwhelming effort at MSG to the Minnesota Timberwolves. The team looked unpolished, and poor shooting combined with sloppy play resulted in a 9 point loss. Sad. Can the Knicks bounce back tonight against a Celtics squad primed for a deep postseason run?
If you think this Celtics team already looks familiar, you’d be right. Kind of. Boston did match up with New York in the Knicks’ preseason opener, but in that game, the Cs trotted out their JV squad. Their six best players were inactive, and Dalano Banton, Payton Pritchard, Luke Kornet, Oshae Brissett, and Sam Hauser were the five on the floor to open up the game. I have a good feeling we won’t be seeing that again on opening night. The Knicks were able to pull out the win, but there wasn’t much we could draw from the victory.
In their previous preseason matchup, Boston might’ve given us a better idea of what to expect with the regular season just a week away. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown remained inactive, but Al Horford, Kristaps Porzingis, Jrue Holiday, and Derrick White all laced ‘em up and played 17 minutes each. The Boston first half rotations looked like they were straight out of a regular season game, and all starters finished with a plus/minus of +8 or higher.
Also worth mentioning: The thirty million dollar man, Payton Pritchard, led the Celtics in scoring once again. He’s already starting to justify his new money. In an encouraging & well-rounded effort for Boston, they comfortably beat the Sixers in an Atlantic Division matchup by the score of 112 to 101. This team will be scary this year.
In the other corner, we have the New York Knickerbockers, fresh off of a 121-112 loss to Anthony Edwards, KAT, and the Timberwolves. The effort was lackadaisical at times (thanks Clyde), but there were many positive takeaways despite the loss. Deuce McBride scored 16 points in 11 minutes on perfect shooting. Evan Fournier continued his push for rotation minutes, scoring 15 points on impressive efficiency. RJ Barrett got to the free throw line at will. Other than that, it was more of the same. The preseason is to shake off the rust, and that’s what the Knicks were doing. Hopefully the squad gets it out of their system now.
The Knicks have had a reliable starting lineup in Brunson, Grimes, Barrett, Randle, and Robinson dating back to last year, and there’s no reason to believe that Tom Thibodeau chooses tonight to get cute. The minutes restrictions are slowly getting pushed higher and higher, and don’t be surprised to see the first half resemble what could be the opening night rotation for New York.
The consistency of this unit has proven to be imperative for the success of the Knicks. If there’s one thing to look out for within this starting unit, it’s Quentin Grimes’ aggressiveness. Knicks fans have pegged him as a potential breakout candidate, and he has the goods, but where can he find his offense alongside two ball-dominant scorers in Randle and Brunson?
On the other side, the Celtics starting lineups have been mixed and matched this preseason. It really depends who’s active. In their preseason opener, White, Brown, Tatum, Horford, and Porzingis were the five on the floor to start the game. With Tatum and Brown out last game, their vacant spots were filled by Jrue Holiday and Sam Hauser. There have been no reports on their status for tonight’s game. I’d expect them to play in preparation for the regular season, but then again, if they sat, I wouldn’t be shocked. Expect the full starting five to play tonight, but if the Celtics’ stars decide to sit again tonight, tab Holiday and Hauser as potential replacements.
The Celtics looked good in their last game against the Sixers, and the starters played well against a Philadelphia team sans-Embiid. My feeling is that Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown will play tonight, and I’d expect the Knicks to fall behind in the first half as they continue to work out the kinks on the offensive end of the floor. Let’s give this one to the Celtics, let them have their fun, and save the New York win for opening night.
Hoping that I’m wrong. 7:30 tip. Tune in on MSG. Be there.