New York Knicks (12-8) vs. Boston Celtics (15-5) Game # 21 12/8/23

The Celtics look to remain undefeated at home as they host the New York Knicks. This is the third match between the two teams this season. The Celtics won 108-104 in New York on the opening night and won again 114-98 in Boston on November 13. They also played twice in the preseason, with the Celtics winning in Boston and the Knicks winning in New York. They are scheduled for 2 more games this season: February 24 in New York and April 11 in Boston.

This game was added to the schedule after both teams lost in the elimination round of the season tournament. The Knicks next game is December 11th at home against the Raptors and then they head out on a 5 game western road trip. The Celtics don’t play again until December 12th when they resume their homestand with 2 games against the Cavaliers and then 2 games against the Magic before beginning their 4-game road trip out west.

The Celtics remain first in the East, 1 game ahead of Milwaukee, 1.5 games ahead of Orlando and 2 games ahead of Philadelphia. They are 7-3 in their last 10 games and are 8-1 against Atlantic Division teams. They are 9-0 at home. The Knicks are 5th in the East, 3 games behind Boston, 1 game behind Philadelphia and tied with Indiana. They are 7-3 in their last 10 games and 1-2 against Atlantic Division teams. They are 6-5 on the road.

Both teams are expected to come into this game healthy. Kristaps Porzingis has missed the last 4 games for the Celtics with a calf injury. He was a full participant during Wednesday’s practice and participated in a 5-on-5 scrimmage with coaches after practice. He is listed as a game-time decision, but is expected to return to the starting lineup for the Celtics in this game. The Knicks currently have no one on the injured list.

Probable Celtics starters

Jrue HolidayPhoto by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

Derrick WhitePhoto by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Jaylen BrownPhoto by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Jayson TatumPhoto by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

Kristaps PorzingisPhoto by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

PG: Jrue Holiday
SG: Derrick White
SF: Jaylen Brown
PF: Jayson Tatum
C: Kristaps Porzingis

Celtics Reserves
Delano Banton
Osha Brissett
Sam Houser
Al Horford
Luke Cornett
All Mihailyuk
Peyton Pritchard
Lamar Stevens
Jordan Walsh

Two-way players
JD Davison
Nathan Knight
Nehemiah Quetta


Head coach
Joe Mazzula

Likely Knicks starters

Jaylen BrunsonPhoto by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Quentin GrimesPhoto by Brian Sevald/NBAE via Getty Images

RJ BarrettPhoto by Al Bello/Getty Images

Julius RandlePhoto by Stephen Ryan/Getty Images

Mitchell RobinsonPhoto by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images

PG: Jaylen Brunson
SG: Quentin Grimes
SF: RJ Barrett
PF: Julius Randle
C: Mitchell Robinson

Knicks Reserves
Donte de Vincenzo
Ryan Archidiacono
Miles McBride
Josh Hart
Immanuel Quickley
Daquan Jeffries
Evan Fournier
Jericho Sims
Isaiah Hartenstein
Dylan Windler

Two-way players
Jacob Toppin
Dwayne Washington, Jr
Charlie Brown Jr

None listed

Head coach
Tom Thibodeau

Key matches

Jrue HolidayPhoto by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Jaylen BrunsonPhoto by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Jrue Holiday vs. Jalen Brunson
Brunson is averaging 24.9 points, 3.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists and 1.0 steals per game. He shot 46.6% from the field and 45.7% from beyond the arc. Against the Celtics this season, he averaged 20.5 points, 3 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals. He shoots a high percentage from 3, so the Celtics need to defend him well on the perimeter.

Jayson TatumPhoto by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

Julius RandlePhoto by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Jayson Tatum vs. Julius Randle
Randle is the reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week. He is averaging 21.5 points, 10.0 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game. He shot 43% from the field and just 29.2% from beyond the arc. In the first 2 games against the Celtics, he averaged 19.5 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists and 1 steal. He shot 29.3% from the field and 31.3% from beyond the arc. Randle has struggled with his shot at times this season, but he is very capable of making a big game at any time.

Honorable mention
Jaylen Brown vs. RJ Barrett
Barrett is averaging 18.9 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game. He shot 41.8% from the field and 38.2% from beyond the arc. Against the Celtics this season, he averaged 24 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 steal. He shot 40% from the field and 40% from beyond the arc.

Game keys
Protection – Defense is the key to winning every game. The Knicks average 111.5 points per game (21st), while the Celtics average 116.5 points per game (10th). The Celtics have a defensive rating of 108.2 (2nd), while the Knicks have a defensive rating of 110.8 (7th). Both teams want to be defensive minded, but both teams forget their defensive identity from time to time. The Celtics gave up 74 points in the second half against the Pacers. They need to play a tougher team defense if they hope to win this game.

Bounce – The Celtics can’t score if they don’t have the ball, and the best way to get the ball is through tackles. The Celtics need to rebuild as a team with every Celtic contender on board. It will take a team effort to beat the Knicks, who are 5th in the league in rebounding at 46.1 per game. The Celtics are 2nd with 47.5 rebounds per game, but tend to get lazy against physical teams that struggle for rebounds. The Knicks are 4th in the league with 16.5 second chance points per game, so the Celtics need to crash the boards to prevent the Knicks from giving up extra points in this game.

No letdown in the 3rd quarter -The Celtics have a -2.4 net rating in the 3rd quarter. That’s 22nd in the league. They have their best net rating in Q1 (+25) but have been down from there, with Q3 being their worst. They let the Pacers go on a 17-3 run to start the 3rd quarter and never recovered. The Celtics need to come out in the 3rd quarter with the same energy they started the game with.

Move the ball carefully – The Celtics need to move the ball and find teammates for the best available shots. They play best when the ball is moving and finding the open man. They struggle when the ball sticks and players try to do too much and play iso ball. However, they need to be careful passing because the Knicks are 6th in the league with 18.7 turnovers per game and if the Celtics get sloppy they will make them pay. The Celtics were 4th in turnover percentage through the first 12 games, but are 26th since then. They need to stay focused and take better care of the ball.

Home game and rest – The Celtics played in 3 straight home games before traveling to Indiana for the elimination round of the season tourney. They haven’t played since Monday and won’t play again until Tuesday, so they should be well rested. The Knicks played on Tuesday, but still had plenty of rest. The Celtics should continue to take advantage of home court advantage, while the Knicks will face a hostile crowd and an unfamiliar arena along with a road trip that will hopefully give the Celtics the advantage.

Judging – Refereeing always has the potential to be an x-factor. Each officiating team calls the game differently. Some referees call it tight and constantly call fouls, while others let them play with a few fouls called. The Celtics need to adjust to how the refs call the game and not let bad calls or no calls take away from their focus. The Celtics can’t afford to let the other team keep playing while Celtics players sit back and complain about calls.

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