New York Knicks (1-0)
Boston Celtics (1-1)
TD Garden, Boston, MA
After Wednesday night's season-opening triumph over the Toronto Raptors I noted that several members of the new-look Knicks roster were undefeated in blue and orange. And, I even argued that it was a significant fact as far as it related to the team's sense of self. Well, that status and self image will surely be tested this evening when the Knicks take the floor against the defending Eastern Conference champs in Boston. Vegas has the Celtics rated 9 points better than the Knicks and sets the over/under for the game at 198.5 points. Sounds about right. Although I do think that if Boston covers that spread then the you could probably knock the O/U down to 195.
The veteran Celtics made a statement in dominating (though not actually pulling away from) the SuperFriends of Miami earlier this week on national television. Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen looked every bit the genuine article while the Heat seemed, not surprisingly, like a bunch of extremely talented guys who were all introduced to each other on the bus ride over from the hotel. Even Shaq looked useful. The Celtics then went out on the road and lost their second game to the LeBron-less Cavaliers in Cleveland. Not exactly a stirring encore. And probably terrible news for the Knickerbockers. While I do believe that the Knicks can beat this Celtics group, I think the odds would have been much higher if the Celtics weren't still flush in the face after an embarrassing loss.
That being said, this game is a great early-season test. Going back to the unexplained animosity between Quentin Richardson and Paul Pierce and right up through Kevin Garnett's ejection versus the Knicks in the preseason, recent games between these two clubs have contained more live current then the league standings have dictated that they might. Considering the Celtics' last game and the Knicks desire to rebrand themselves as contenders (or at least as being mediocre), I'm expecting fire. the over/under on Kevin Garnett scowls is at 17.5 and I'm willing to stake large amounts on the over.
If the Knicks are to steal this one then I'd suspect that Rajon Rondo's tendency to turn the ball over would figure prominently. The Knicks will need transition hoops to keep pace with a more muscular and efficient Celtics offense.
Things to Look For:
-How does Stoudemire do against KG? Does KG guard him straight up or do the Celtics run all those old centers at him?
-How does Ray Felton cope with Rondo's speed? And can he use his physical strength to get the better of him on the other end? Do we see Toney Douglas defending Rondo a lot?
-What does Chandler bring off the bench? How does that Douglas-led second unit handle itself? Can either Roger Mason Jr. or Bill Walker make any impact?
-Who guards Pierce? I'd love to see some combination of Gallinari and Chandler go at him. One is long and the other is strong.
-Can Landry Fields get through all those screens to stay with Ray Allen? As usual, I think that this game could be decided by Allen's ability to find a rhythm. Does Chandler guard him late?
-Can Gallo get on track? Although he hit a few big shots against Toronto he never really asserted himself.
-And how much does Amar'e assert himself tonight?
In what I aim to be a season-long habit, I've been trading emails today with a blogger who covers the Knicks' opponent. Below you'll find a back-and-forth with one of the contributors at CelticsBlog.
WWOD?: Which made more of an impression: the opening night win over the Heat or the follow-up loss to the Cavs?
CelticsBlog: I'd say the opening night win. The loss the following night can be attributed to taking their opponent for granted along with the Cavs being very motivated in their home opener. Also, it was the second of back to back games for the Celtics along with travel overnight. Not many Celtics fans are concerned about the loss.
WWOD?: After an up-then-down-then-up 2009-2010 season, what do Celtics fans expect this year? What is the least the team can accomplish without being considered a disappointment?
CelticsBlog: The majority of Celtics fans expect a great season. The team is healthy and motivated and very deep. The bench strength has given fans reason for optimism. Anything short of Banner 18 will be a disappointment.
WWOD?: With 5 of the 7 players getting the most run for the Celtics already being age 30 or older and 3 of the team's top 4 players ranging from 33 to 35, what is the urgency level for this season? Does it feel like a last Gasp effort?
CelticsBlog: I have to laugh when people talk about how old the Celtics are and use that as a reason they rank them below the Lakers. In truth, the Lakers are an older team than the Celtics. The Lakers have 9 players 30 or older while the Celtics have just 5 players 30 or older. The Celtics big 3 take excellent care of themselves and all have at least 2 years left on their contracts. This isn't a last gasp effort. This team is very capable of winning it all this season and next season, barring a major injury.
WWOD?: When does the Shaq-Nate comedy revue begin filming episodes?
CelticsBlog: That's a good question. If you followed their exploits in training camp you know that there won't be a dull moment for Celtics fans this season with those two around.