New York Knicks vs Boston Celtics: Five Players to Watch

New York Knicks

Oct 19, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics center Tyler Zeller (44) drives to the basket past New York Knicks center Joakim Noah (13) during the second half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks will be playing the Boston Celtics for the first time this season on Friday night. Here are five players to watch.

It has not been a great start to the season for either the New York Knicks or the Boston Celtics. Despite both teams having playoff aspirations, they will be entering Friday’s game with identical 3-4 records.

Due to all of the change this offseason for the Knicks with a new coach and new personnel, a slow start was to be expected. Even great teams like the Miami Heat struggled in the first half of the season when they assembled the “Big 3”. The Golden State Warriors have also lost a few games this season already, as chemistry takes time to build in the NBA.

One of the issues for the Knicks this season has been on defense. However, they finally showed some signs that they can play well on the defensive end of the court in their most recent game against the Brooklyn Nets. This, of course, has to take into account that the Nets are not a very good team, but the Knicks defense did look great in the second half. In seven games this season, that was the first time that the Knicks were able to hold a team under 100 points.

For the Celtics, their slow start can be credited to two of their key players being injured. Both Al Horford and Jae Crowder have been out, and they will also both be out on Friday against the Knicks.

With a chance to improve to .500 for both teams, here are five players to watch on Friday night.

New York Knicks

Oct 8, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks guard Brandon Jennings (3) drives to the basket defended by Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez (11) during the first half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Brandon Jennings

Ball movement has been key early on for the Knicks this season. There is still a lot of discussions about whether or not the Knicks are using the triangle enough this season, but it is not secret that assists have led to wins this season.

While the addition of Derrick Rose was a very good one for the Knicks, he has been expected to be a scorer throughout his career despite playing point guard. He is obviously adjusting to playing with other good scorers like Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis. As the season goes on, Rose will likely develop into more of a passing guard to help the weapons around him succeed.

One of the stars of the Knicks win against the Nets was backup point guard Brandon Jennings. In the win, the Knicks benched played really well in the game, and that bench unit was led by Jennings. Even though Jennings shot just 1-for-6 from the field, he dished out 11 assists off the bench.

That type of facilitating helped players like Willy Hernangomez, Mindaugas Kuzminskas, and Lance Thomas have effective and efficient games in the win. The Knicks expect a lot from Jennings in the sixth man role, and he certainly shined in his last game.

New York Knicks

Nov 9, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; Boston Celtics guard Avery Bradley (0) dribbles as Washington Wizards forward Otto Porter Jr. (22) defends during the first half at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Avery Bradley

Injuries have hurt the Celtics early on this season, but it has led to Avery Bradley showing the team what he can do. Isaiah Thomas is clearly the leader of the Celtics now, but Bradley has been a good sidekick for him this season.

This season, Bradley is averaging 19.7 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game. In addition to being the second leading scorer on the team, Bradley has also been extremely efficient for the Celtics, as he is shooting 50 percent from the field and 44.2 percent from three-point range. In the Celtics recent loss to the Wizards, Bradley scored 21 points on 9-for-14 shooting, as he did all he could to help his team win.

The 7.9 rebounds per game that Bradley is averaging is also leading the team as of now with Horford being sidelined. Dealing with an active rebounding guard can be a real hassle, and that is something the Knicks will have to keep a watch on.

Due to the injuries to their front court, the Celtics have been relying heavily on their guards. Bradley is averaging nearly 38 minutes played per game, as the Knicks will get to see him plenty on Friday night.

New York Knicks

Nov 9, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks power forward Kristaps Porzingis (6) shoots a three point shot over Brooklyn Nets shooting guard Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (24) and Brooklyn Nets shooting guard Bojan Bogdanovic (44) during the third quarter at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Kristaps Porzingis

After a strong rookie season, Kristaps Porzingis is shining early on in his sophomore season. We all saw the potential in Porzingis last season, and we are seeing him really blossom into a great player.

So far this season, Porzingis is averaging 19.1 points per game, and he has been shooting very well from the field. This season, Porzingis is shooting 48 percent from the field, and 44 percent from three-point range. Both of these numbers are way up from last season, and his efficiency is helping the Knicks play well on offense.

In his last three games, Porzingis has totaled more than 20 points in each of them, and they are 2-1 in that span. Porzingis has emerged as the second option on offense behind Carmelo Anthony, and getting him even more involved wouldn’t be a bad thing with how well he is playing.

Against the Celtics on Friday, Porzingis will have a great opportunity for another big game. Due to the weak frontline for the Celtics, Porzingis will likely be able to make it four straight games with at least 20 points. Attacking the glass will present the Knicks with some easy second-chance opportunities, and Porzingis can use his height to punish the Celtics in the paint.

New York Knicks

Nov 6, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) during the second half against the Denver Nuggets at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Isaiah Thomas

If the Celtics are going to win on Friday night, it will likely be caused by a big game from point guard Isaiah Thomas. With the Celtics, Thomas has emerged as a great player in recent years, and he is the best player on their team this season.

Despite being just 5’9”, Thomas is one of the best scorers in the NBA, and he can light up a defense very quickly. The defense has been an issue for the Knicks this season, and they can’t afford to let Thomas get going early in this game.

So far this season, Thomas is leading the Celtics with 25.7 points, and 7.1 assists per game. Even though he is averaging the most points in his career so far this season, Thomas is shooting under 30 percent from beyond the arc.

Even though the Celtics have lost their last three games, Thomas has scored 30 points in two of those games, and he had a double-double with assists in the Celtics most recent game. The matchup of Derrick Rose and Thomas will be one of the most entertaining of the game, as Rose must use his size advantage to make Thomas work on the defensive end.

New York Knicks

Nov 9, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks small forward Carmelo Anthony (7) reacts after hitting a three point shot against the Brooklyn Nets during the second quarter at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Carmelo Anthony

With a great chance to have team success this season, Carmelo Anthony is off to a great start this season. In seven games, Anthony has totaled at least 20 points in all but just one in the first game of the season against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

With some new weapons around him, Anthony has been pretty efficient shooting the ball from inside the arc this season, as he shooting 47.9 percent from the field this season. Shooting beyond the arc continues to be an issue for Anthony early in the season, as he is shooting just 24 percent from beyond the arc. Even with some struggles from three-point range, Anthony is the leading scorer for the Knicks.

Against the Nets on Wednesday, Anthony really stepped up when the team needed him to in the second half. Anthony led the way for his team with 22 points, as the Knicks were certainly sparked on offense by Anthony.

Anthony will be catching a break against the Celtics due to the injury to Jae Crowder. Crowder is certainly a very good defender that would have caused some problems for Anthony, but now Anthony should be a mismatch for whoever tries to guard him on Friday night.

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