The Boston Celtics desperately need to bounce back against the New York Knicks
The Boston Celtics are coming off of two unacceptable performances, and arguably the two worst in the Brad Stevens era. The Celtics have been blown off the court in the first quarter by both the Denver Nuggets and the Washington Wizards, and they have not done enough to mount a comeback. Both Marcus Smart and Isaiah Thomas have made comments about their effort and heart, and that has been the defining quality of these Celtics teams.
There has been no good news on the injury front. Al Horford is still stuck in the concussion protocol and Jae Crowder will be sidelined until late next week. They need to figure out how to fix things with the players that have been getting abused these last two games, and it has to start on the defensive end.
The Celtics took a struggling Wizards team and made them look like the best of the East. They have proven that they will get out rebounded by anybody, and they had no impact generating turnovers against a team that had one of the worst assist to turnover ratios in the league.
Next up is the New York Knicks. They have also had a disappointing start to the season, but these last two games have made it abundantly clear that the Celtics cannot take anything for granted. The Knicks have size that will be incredibly problematic, and a starting lineup change featuring either Smart or Kelly Olynyk cannot be ruled out.
The Knicks have actually struggled rebounding the ball, with a negative three differential. That being said, the Celtics have reached a point where they cannot expect to beat any team on the boards. For now, the focus needs to be offensive rebounds. The Celtics are making a habit of giving up more than 15 offensive rebounds in games, and they have not been able to make up for that in other areas.
The Knicks are averaging under 10 offensive rebounds per game, and the Celtics need to keep it that way. Their defense has not been good enough and they cannot afford to give teams those extra opportunities.
The Celtics also have a challenge ahead of them if they want to right the ship with their turnovers. The Knicks have the ninth best assist to turnover ratio, and the Celtics have struggled to cause any kind of disruption. With no one that has the adequate size to effectively matchup to Kristaps Porzingis or Carmelo Anthony, the Celtics need to disrupt their ball movement and keep them out of rhythm.
Mar 4, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) calls for the ball as Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) defends during the second half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports
The Celtics are allowing teams to shoot over 45 percent on the season, and they have been leaving guys open and making it far too easy in the paint. The Knicks have not been a stellar shooting team, but they will have no problem scoring if the Celtics do not become more disruptive.
Derrick Rose should not be a matchup problem, but the Knicks can generate offense elsewhere. It is vital they they do not let Anthony or Porzingis destroy this game, but it is becoming difficult to see how they will accomplish that. The Celtics will need to lean on Smart more than ever. He has proven to be their more versatile defender and his additional size could land him on Anthony, or even Porzingis if Stevens gets desperate. Smart has proven to be capable as an undersized defender, but it makes everything around him more difficult.
Avery Bradley will have a much more comfortable matchup against Rose, and he needs to be an instigator on defense and get the Celtics running in transition.
Offensively, the Celtics need to keep up what they are doing, just with an added jolt in the first quarter. The Celtics have been moving the ball well with strong assist totals and minimal turnovers. They have been the fifth best three point shooting team in the league, and that should be more than enough to get back on track against the Knicks.
The Celtics should also get more of an impact out of Olynyk, who should also be a bit of an upgrade on the defensive end. He will not add much of an impact, but should become less and less of a liability, particularly compared to Tyler Zeller.
The Knicks have allowed teams to shoot over 37 percent from three, and are in the middle of the pack in generating turnovers. Thomas has done a great job running the offense once again, and he needs to take on the added responsibility, and give the Celtics the extra boost they clearly need to get wins.
Thomas has an opportunity to take over this game on the offensive end, and he has been getting plenty of shooting help around him. The Celtics know they have to be better on defense, but they cannot expect to win games on that end without Crowder and Horford. Thomas is the one that needs to push the Celtics over the edge on offense and get them back to .500 and within striking distance of the Toronto Raptors.