The New York Knicks (5-13) are on their first winning streak of the season and are looking to extend it in a Sunday matinee against the division leading Boston Celtics (9-12).
This Celtics team is far different from the one that the Knicks eliminated from the playoffs seven months ago. Gone is the wisdom of Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry, yet Boston still finds itself atop the standings in the Atlantic Division. A win by New York brings that lead down to just a game and a half.
Like Friday night’s opponent, the Celtics were expected to be more focused on June’s draft than the regular season, so their “red hot” 9-12 start has come as a bit of a surprise. Rajon Rondo still has no timetable for a return after last year’s ACL surgery and instead is replaced by Jordan Crawford, who did a lot more trash talking than playing during last season’s postseason matchup.
Still, the Knicks need to respect what Crawford can do on the floor. He’s been their best offensive guard so far, averaging 14.4 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 6.9 assists since entering the starting lineup. Jared Sullinger has also been an early season surprise for Boston, putting up 14.2 points in the starting five and expanding his range out to the three-point line. However, Jeff Green is the one that the Knicks need to keep under wraps if they’re going to get the win. Green got off to a slow start, but is averaging 19.5 points over his last nine games.
Despite the fact that Boston is ranked seventh in points surrendered per game, scoring the ball shouldn’t be an issue for the Knicks. The ball movement has been superb of late, and the team was even practicing passing drills during warmups on Friday night. Finally, the Knicks look like they care. Now all they have to do is take care of business.