I’m still suffering intermittent palpitations from the excitement of New York’s stunning win over Miami on Friday, which marked their eighth consecutive victory. Tonight’s game at the TD Garden promises to be another threat to my ticker when the Boston Celtics (45-19) host our blazing New York Knicks (38-27).
This will be the fourth and final meeting between the two clubs this season. So far, the New York Knicks have the upper hand, leading the season series 2-1and won their last matchup this past Monday to the tune of 109-94. (Nah, it wasn’t really that close.)
Boston has the league’s best net rating (+5.4), the third-best offense, and fifth-best defense. As the fighting shamrocks learned on Monday, however, New York is an ascending rocket, ranking seventh for net (+3.2), fourth for offense, and fourteenth for defense.
Will our heroes record their ninth in a row? Will the Celts bounce back on their home court? Tip-off’s at 7:30 p.m. ET, chowderheads.
Fresh off being named February’s Eastern Conference Player of the Month, Jalen Brunson posted 25 points and added eight assists on Friday. JB did so on an ankle that he twisted early in the game (and still logged 35 minutes). He had two steals and only one turnover and shot 64% from the floor. All-Star in our hearts!
Boston’s lead guard Marcus Smart posted 19 points in his last game against New York but managed a mere two assists in 34 minutes while shooting 47% from the floor, 29% from deep. He complained to/about the refs throughout the game, and a frustrated Celtic is a truly satisfying thing.
Quentin Grimes sank 1-of-5 from deep on Friday but shot 46% from Threetown in his last five games. His minutes have been reduced by 10 since the arrival of Josh Hart, but you’ll never see Grimes sulk on the bench. This New York team isn’t just deep with talent, it’s deep with character. (Insert Ja Morant meme here.)
Tonight he’ll square off against Jaylen Brown, who missed Monday’s game for personal reasons. Brown has averaged 19.6 points and 5.1 rebounds in 21 games against the Knicks.
During New York’s eight-game winning streak, RJ Barrett’s shooting had been one of the few blemishes. He’s gone 30% from deep over that span (on 4.1 attempts) and shot 4-of-14 (29%) from the floor on Monday against Boston. With the playoffs approaching, RJ’s running out of time to fix his shot.
Jayson Tatum was stymied by Josh Hart in their last engagement, and the latter showed his unabashed delight when Tatum rode a second technical out of the game. Shutting down Boston’s superstar forward once is difficult; locking him up twice in one week would be damn impressive. His season averages are 30.2 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 4.8 assists.
On Friday, Julius Randle nearly fumbled the game away before sinking an off-balance three-pointer for the win—an improbable, heroic moment that could have easily gone the other way. Had he bricked, we would have spent Saturday bemoaning a lost game in which they’d led by 17 points. Yet they survived, and Julius’ dagger was the icing on a 43-point cake, his fourth 40+ point game of the season. Tonight he will trample Al Horford.
In the five games since returning from thumb surgery, Mitchell Robinson has “shot” 22-for-23 from the floor. (Shot is in quotes, because, c’mon, these are dunks.) Over that span, Sir Blockness averaged 10.6 rebounds, 9.2 points, 1.2 blocks, and 1.2 steals. Best center in NYC? Indubitably.
Tonight, Robert Williams will miss the game due to a sore hammy, so Mike Muscala (6’10”, 240 lb.) is expected to start at center for Boston.
ESPN.com gives the Celtics 56% odds. Bah! I had picked the Knicks to win by six on Monday and will roll with that number again. Boston is tougher with Brown back, but whatever. I’m so inebriated on optimism juice, I’ll pick the Knicks to win every contest for the foreseeable future. Josh Hart’s undefeated streak continues tonight.
TD Garden, Boston, Meh. Sunday. 7:30 p.m. EST. Go Knicks!