The New York Knicks will take their talents to Boston tonight to face off against the No. 3 seed Celtics. How will they fare?
The drama surrounding the New York Knicks in recent weeks has taken a toll on everyone. Yesterday, Carmelo Anthony finally met face-to-face with Phil Jackson about his tenure in New York.
Anthony has reiterated his desires to remain in New York, and the meeting was much of the same.
Anthony was bombarded by more questions during today’s shootaround at TD Garden regarding his meeting with Jackson. Anthony, understandably so, is over the questions.
As the Knicks look to move forward from the constant distractions plaguing the team, they’ll face off against one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics.
Interestingly enough, there were rumors circulating about Boston’s interest in Anthony, and the possibility of a trade between the two franchises.
However, Danny Ainge, the Celtics’ general manager, isn’t willing to give up a top draft pick to acquire Anthony’s services.
The Knicks roll into this game with a record of 18-24, losers of 11 of their past 13 games. Perhaps a more worrisome stat is the Knicks’ record on the road, which is a disappointing 6-15.
The Celtics, on the other hand, are 13-6 at home and 8-2 in their last 10 games.
To add insult to injury, head coach Jeff Hornacek announced that Kristaps Porzingis will be held out of his fourth straight game due to a nagging achilles injury.
Per usual, the odds are stacked against the Knicks in this matchup.
Their first matchup came on November 11th at Boston, where the Knicks were blown out, 117-97. The last time these teams played was on Christmas Day, when the Knicks’ late fourth quarter comeback fell short.
The Celtics won on Christmas Day, 119-104, and come into this game with a record of 26-15, good for third place in the East.
Isaiah Thomas has proven to be a franchise player, and has made his case for MVP.
On the season, Thomas is averaging 28.4 points on 45.9 percent shooting, 6.1 assists, 90 percent shooting from the free throw line, and a PER of 26.9. The most notable stat is how clutch Thomas has been this season, leading the league in fourth quarter scoring at 10.1 points per.
Hornacek will likely opt to keep Anthony at power forward, and start Kyle O’Quinn at center assuming Noah is held out of tonight’s game.
For the Knicks to have a chance to compete in this game, they’ll have to be great on defense. Given their defensive woes this season, that isn’t likely to change tonight.
In turn, Anthony and Derrick Rose will have to put an exceptional performance together to leave TD Garden with a victory tonight. With the injuries and drama surrounding the Knicks, they need something to improve the morale of the team.
Ron Baker’s addition to the starting lineup has brought a spark to this team. He’ll continue to start over Courtney Lee.
The only thing worse than struggling defensively is struggling with team chemistry, and whether the players will admit it or not, the culture of the team is non-existent.
Rose has pushed Hornacek to hold players more accountable on defense, Brandon Jennings has complained about the consistency of Hornacek’s starting lineups, and Lee posted a cryptic Instagram post following his benching on Monday in favor of Baker.
This team is quickly spiraling out of control, and it’s up to Hornacek and Anthony to lead this team back to winning basketball.
If the Knicks miss the playoffs this season, much of the blame will fall on Hornacek. At this point, he should make the moves that he believes will bring the team success, and stop worrying about appeasing Jackson.
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After all, when Jackson’s offseason pick up disappeared against the New Orleans Pelicans, where was he to back up his head coach? When Jackson’s offseason pick up openly criticized his head coach for not holding his players accountable, where was Jackson?
Hornacek has a responsibility to put the Knicks in the best position to win games, and if it comes at the expense of disappointing certain players, then so be it.
Besides, shouldn’t the players want to win?
Winning as a team should supersede individual success.
Even with Porzingis out, the Knicks have enough talent to keep this game close. The key to this game is going to be the Knicks’ effort and intensity in the third quarter—a quarter during which the Knicks scored eight total points in their last road matchup in Toronto.
Unfortunately, without the assistance of Porzingis, it’s hard to see the Knicks pulling this game out. The Knicks will struggle to defend Thomas, and will likely have to play catch up for a majority of this game.
With the fifth-place Washington Wizards on the schedule for tomorrow, the Knicks need to walk away from this Celtics game with something to build on. Whether it’s competitive defense, bench production, or a huge game from Rose and Anthony, the Knicks need positivity.
Usually, not much positivity is found in losses. However, the Knicks season being where it is, a competitive road loss would be a positive result.
The Knicks can prove to the Celtics, and themselves, that they aren’t a team that’s going to be pushed around at will.
Celtics win, 108-101.