The New York Knicks (35-27) delivered an electrifying performance on Saturday, dominating the Pelicans from start to finish en route to their fifth straight triumph. But tonight, they face a much stiffer challenge in the form of the Eastern Conference’s top dog, the Boston Celtics (44-17). This will be a true test of the Knicks’ mettle as they look to extend their winning streak and make a statement against one of the league’s elite teams.
Tonight’s matchup is their third of the season, with the Knicks winning their last encounter 120-117 in overtime on January 27. The series is tied 1-1, and after tonight’s contest they will face each other on Sunday for their final regular season head-to-head.
Take heed, league—these Knicks are no slouches. They have the sixth-best offense and its 14th-best defense. They average 114.8 points per game and shoot 46.2% from the field. Meanwhile, the Celtics have dominated their Eastern Conference foes to the tune of 27-12. Most recently, they pulled off a stunner in Philly on Saturday thanks to a heroic, last-second three-pointer from Jayson Tatum. At times they seem simple unstoppable.
Tip-off’s at 7:30 p.m. After that, I plan not to blink for about 2.5 hours.
Jalen Brunson has been Beast Mode personified. He’s knocked down an average of 2.1 three-pointers per game over the last ten games for New York. In seven career games against Marcus Smart, Brunson has averaged 12 points, 3.4 boards, and 3.3 dimes. Still, beware of Smart. Marcus always brings it against the Knicks, and he might be shooting 15% from downtown all night, only to can a clinching trey dagger at the end. The guy gives me fits.
Quentin Grimes has seen a drastic minutes reduction since the addition of Josh Hart five games ago. He went from over 30 per to the low 20s and has averaged 5.8 points and two boards over that span. Still, it’s a team sport as Tom Thibodeau likes to crow, and you can’t argue with successful results.
Tonight, QDot won’t have to worry about Jaylen Brown, out for personal reasons, and may not see Derrick White, who’s day-to-day with a sprained ankle. Next up on Boston’s depth chart is the pride of Tualatin, OR, Payton Pritchard (6’1”, 195 lb.) who has averaged 4.9 points in about 19 minutes per game. Advantage: Grimes.
Maybe RJ Barrett needed the All-Star break to get himself right. He was a zombie leading up to the time off but has been a net positive in the two games since. His Celtic counterpart Tatum has averaged 30.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 4.6 assists, and one would assume that Thibs will give Grimes the defensive assignment. Nonetheless, I’d look forward to seeing RJ defend against Tatum, as it will give us a good indication of his current skill level.
None can besmirch the exceptional play of Julius Randle, who averages a remarkable 25.1 points, 10.6 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game. He cooked Al Horford for 37 points and nine rebounds when they last met. Expect more of that good stuff tonight.
His Blockness, Mitchell Robinson has averaged 9.2 points, eight rebounds, and one block in six games versus Robert Williams (6’9”, 237 lb.) in his career. Conversely, the Time Lord has averaged 9.3 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 3.5 blocks in those six games. Keep your eyes on the paint tonight because watching these two Godzillas battle will be fun.
All eyes will be on Madison Square Garden tonight as these two Eastern Conference powerhouses battle it out in what is sure to be an exciting and hard-fought game. Surprisingly, ESPN.com picks the Knicks to win at 66%. Maybe everyone else is starting to notice what we’ve known for a while now—these Bockers are legitimate. Tonight’s result? Sorry Celts, give me the Knicks by six.
Madison Square Garden. NYC. Monday. 7:30 p.m. EST. Crush the shamrocks, Knicks!