After a rather encouraging six game road trip, the Celtics returned home with a little more swagger in their step. They had kept it tight against one of the best in the league (Warriors) and had beat up on good opponents in the Jazz, Blazers and Nuggets.
The return to the Garden however started with a bad loss against the Rockets and an even worse loss against the Dwayne Wade-less Heat. One big trend has been emerging at least in the past few games-The Celtics just aren’t competing in the first half.
An encouraging sign in Sunday’s loss versus the Heat; the Celtics looked good defensively in the second half. Noted though that Boston was trying to dig out of a big hole, which they have seem to have gotten pretty good at. If they could only start games out as strong as they have in the recent third quarters, things might look a bit different.
The New York Knicks at first glance, might seem like the perfect elixir for an ailing Celtics squad, but they’ve been playing tough in recent weeks. The Knicks (10-38) have won five of their last seven games, with Carmelo Anthony scoring 31 points in Sunday’s 92-80 win over the Lakers.
The Knicks have won the past three meetings, including a 101-95 win in the Garden on December 12th.
Carmelo is the obvious stud on the Knicks, averaging 24 points and 6 rebounds a game. After that, well let’s just say that the Knicks are in rebuilding mode. Or wait, are they? If you’re confused, you wouldn’t be alone. After the Knicks signed 30 Year ‘Melo to a $124 Million contract, many were wondering why the Knicks would commit such a huge sum of money to a guy in the later stages of his career.
Ian Begley at ESPN offers some commentary from Knicks head coach Derek Fisher:
“I think we owe it to Carmelo to do it the right way,” Fisher said before the Knicks’ win over the Los Angeles Lakers. “He just signed a contract for five years, he’s 30 years old. We don’t have 10 years to figure this out.
So, for us, we’re right in the middle of, ‘We need to do some things right away, as soon as we can.’ But at the same time, not necessarily put ourselves in the same position we’ve been in the last few years where we try to get a get a bunch of guys that don’t have favorable contracts that don’t allow you to plan for the future.”
The Celtics will be without Kelly Olynyk (who is battling a nagging knee injury) and potentially Tayshaun Prince who missed the last game with a hip flexor. It’s sad to say, but Prince is one of Boston’s better players at the moment and another absence might lead to more problems for the Celtics. Avery Bradley is also playing with a fractured thumb (in his non-shooting hand) but has vowed to keep playing through the pain.
Anthony is also dealing with injury issues of his own. Rotoworld reports that Anthony won’t commit to playing out the year due to knee issues.
For the Celtics, expect to see more of the rookies–especially if Prince is out. It’s obvious that Marcus Smart is the future of this team and he’s likely to supplant Evan Turner as starter before the season’s out.
Rookie James Young, who just ripped off 9 threes in a game for the Red Claws is back in action for the Celts. Young has a lot of promise, and with the Celtics looking like more of a lottery team than a playoff team at this point should see more playing time.
The Celtics will have their hands full with Anthony, who scored 22 in their last meeting and has been the driving force behind the Knicks recent success. New York is favored by one in the game and I think they roll the Celtics.
Prediction: Knicks 99, Celtics 89