Saturday, December 24, 2011

New York Knicks vs. Boston Celtics - Preview

It's all real tomorrow, folks! The NBA season officially begins at 12 PM, starting with the Knicks vs. Celtics at Madison Square Garden.

Last year, these two teams caused a bit of a media stir. First, with Amar'e Stoudemire talking about reigniting the Celtics-Knicks rivalry, and then with Boston sweeping the Knicks in the playoffs.

Tomorrow begins the sprint to the playoffs for the Knicks, and it promises to be exciting. Read more for some notes on the matchup.


Knicks
The Knicks concluded their preseason Wednesday with a second win over the New Jersey Nets. There were some good moments during the two games, but also some incoherency on offensive gameplans and defensive assigments.

Mike D'Antoni was pretty liberal with his bench, giving nearly every player on the roster some playing time, while generally limiting Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire, and Tyson Chandler to around 30 minutes a game.

Here are some things to look for tomorrow:
  •  How big of a rotation will D'Antoni play? Outside of the starting five, it isn't very clear where each bench bro stands. Mike Bibby, Bill Walker, and Jared Jeffries were all sidelined with injures over the past week to two weeks; will they be cleared to play? Will the newest Knick Steve Novak get playing time? If not, the Knicks' bench consists of Josh Harrellson, Iman Shumpert, and Renaldo Balkman. For Knicks fans, that is scary and super exciting at the same time.
  • Where will the line be drawn between Toney Douglas being the ball-handler and Carmelo Anthony? During the preseason, Anthony looked like the far more capable distributor, while Douglas's floor-vision and confidence with the ball continues to lack. The question really is: how long of a leash will Douglas be given?
  • How will Stoudemire and Anthony look together on offense? During the preseason, both of them, for the most part, operated on separate elbows, doing their own thing. Knicks fans are craving for some pick-and-roll action between the two of them. Has D'Antoni been hiding until the regular season officially starts?
  • How effective will the Knicks' defense be? There has been a lot of talk about the potentially revamped defense this season. Tyson Chandler and assistant coach Mike Woodson are supposed to be the key additions, but the whole team needs to buy in. Against a legitimate offense tomorrow (no offense, Nets), will they actually prove to have improved on the other end of the floor?

Celtics
The Celtics finished their season a little prematurely (for their standards) in 2010-11 when they were eliminated by the Miami Heat. Now, they return with a slightly different supporting cast, but their same Core 4 (just made that up now, you like it?!) of Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett.

Pierce is 'doubtful' for tomorrow with an injured heel. That will undoubtedly help the Knicks' chances as Pierce is the Celtics' best scorer, and an MSG villain.

Regardless, the Celtics are a dangerous team and it seems like they have won the last, like, 20 games vs. the Knicks. Here are some things to watch:
  • Who will start at the small forward slot for Pierce? Marquise Daniels, perhaps? That should alleviate some Knicks fans' fears for the time being.
  • The Celtics' front office tried awfully hard to trade Rajon Rondo for Chris Paul; they dangled him out there like a worm on a fish hook. Rondo has said that he has brushed off the talk and is "ready to go" with the season. Will the organization's disloyalty affect Rondo on the court?
  • Ray Allen torched the Knicks during the playoffs last season. Will they send Fields back out after him? Shumpert? Douglas? A combination of the three?
Boston Celtics Scouting Info
  • Kevin Garnett is still a great defender and a capable offensive option for Boston, but in recent years, his old age and injuries have slowed him down. During the lockout, Garnett decided to try and seek a cure for his age, by searching for the Fountain of Youth. When Garnett heard that Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides was about searching for the illustrious Fountain, he tried to get last-minute role in the movie. The producers had to tell him that it was only a fictional story, and wouldn't help his career.
  • Rajon Rondo is a very lengthy point guard who pesters opponents with his tough defense. Rondo, however, decided last season that his defense was no longer good enough, and he needed to be longer. In order to do this, he made Play Doh extensions to his arms and fingers, despite Doc Rivers' insistence that they won't work.
  • Ray Allen who broke the NBA all-time three-point record last season, has grown tired of the ease at which he makes them. To make the game more interesting, he has decided he will crawl on his hands and knees around the court this season.

 Tomorrow begins games that really count! Everybody enjoy your holidays and enjoy the game! Go Knicks!

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