Chapter 2 of the Knicks-Celtics rivalry goes down on January 24, and fans are definitely excited going in. Not only has the scene changed from Madison Square Garden to TD Garden, but there is some drama between both teams.
Not only did Boston win in its first meeting with New York this season, on January 7, but there is a bit of a feud between Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Garnett. The Knicks' star scorer got into a war of words with the legendary trash-talker, going so far as to wait for him by the Celtics' team bus after the game. His actions got him suspended for a game, so New York is definitely out for revenge.
If certain trends hold, New York will get it. Boston has lost four games in a row following a six-game winning streak, and three of those defeats came against lottery teams. The team may have done well against the Knicks in recent years, but this game could easily be different.
New York actually has something to play for this season, and defeating the Celtics could definitely be the initial spark of what could become a hot streak. Considering that TD Garden will be full of rowdy fans cheering for both sides, this is a game that fans will not want to miss.
Time: Thursday, January 24th, 8 p.m. EST
Betting Line: Not available as of Wednesday, January 24, 12:44 p.m. EST
Injuries: Rasheed Wallace (foot, out), Marcus Camby (foot, out), Raymond Felton (finger, out), Pablo Prigioni (toe, out)
Key Storyline: Can Knicks Avenge Earlier Loss in Boston?
The Knicks managed to keep the game close against the Celtics when the teams faced off earlier this month, but they still lost 102-96 in spite of the fact that Boston was without dynamic point guard Rajon Rondo, who was serving a one-game suspension. New York's defense was no match for Paul Pierce, who led Boston with 23 points and six assists.
The Celtics also shot 53 percent from the field that game, while the Knicks shot just 41 percent and Carmelo Anthony made just six of 26 shot attempts.
Anthony happened to be the story of the game, but not because of his shooting woes. He and Kevin Garnett were going at each other all game long, with both men receiving technical fouls at one point. Garnett's trash talk was bad enough to the point where Anthony actually sought him out after the game, earning him his recent suspension.
Such cannot be the case tonight. Anthony needs to have a better performance, refusing to let Garnett get under his skin at any point.
Moreover, the Knicks need to put up a better overall effort. Boston may own them as of late, going 13-4 against New York over the past four-plus seasons, but there is no reason that the Knicks' defense should have allowed Boston to shoot the ball so well.
The stage is thus set for the ultimate revenge game, and the Knicks aren't going to stop until they get it.
Key Matchup: Tyson Chandler vs. Kevin Garnett
The key to this game is defense, and reigning Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler needs to assert his dominance against Boston, the second-worst rebounding team in the league. He has continued playing excellent basketball this season, posting 12.2 points and 11 rebounds per game.
Chandler also leads the league in field-goal percentage, having shot 67 percent from the floor on the season. He had 13 points and 17 rebounds against the Celtics earlier this month, but his battle with Kevin Garnett was still something of a stalemate.
Garnett had only 10 rebounds, but he scored 19 points on 6-of-11 shooting. He used his jumper and pesky defense to make life hell for the Knicks, but that cannot be the case for Round 2.
Long story short, Chandler needs to take Garnett out of the game completely. He most force him into the low post and let him know that the jump shot is not an option.
This will definitely not be an easy task, as Garnett is 36 years old and has 17 years of NBA experience under his belt. Despite his age, he has averaged 14.7 points and seven rebounds while shooting 50 percent from the field.
Chandler must thus be ready to go toe-to-toe with an NBA great and future Hall of Famer. Forcing Garnett into a bad game in front of his home crowd would send the message that the Celtics' time has run out and that New York's time is just beginning.
In such a case, New York would experience the best type of vengeance.
X-Factor: Iman Shumpert
Celtics coach Doc Rivers and Knicks coach Mike Woodson have one thing in common: both love defense. The Knicks will need to play plenty of it in the quest to slow down Boston, which means that Iman Shumpert must be a force no matter how many minutes he plays.
The second-year guard has recently returned from an ACL injury suffered during last year's playoffs and has averaged 17.5 minutes over his first two games back. Even in limited playing time, Shumpert has looked as though he was never injured, and his defense is as pesky as ever.
However, defense is only part of the game. Though he is a great pest, Shumpert must also be ready to play a role in the Knicks' offensive attack.
His scoring isn't the strongest part of his game, but Shumpert has proven to be an excellent dunker, and he also showed marked improvement with his jump shot in his rookie year. In March of 2012, he shot 38 percent from long range and 44 percent from the floor.
That needs to be the case against Boston. He'll likely be guarded by either Avery Bradley or Jason Terry, and he must fight past both of them. This means driving the lane and even utilizing his mid-range jumper. If he has a wide-open three, Shumpert must not hesitate to take that shot, either.
Defensively, the man cannot back down from any battle. I understand that the team wants to work him back from his injury conservatively, but these are the Celtics. Defense is the name of the game, and Shumpert needs to be great in that department, whether it's coming away with a steal or taking a charge.
If he can do all of that and keep the Celtics frustrated at the same time, the Knicks will definitely have a shot at evening the season series.
The Celtics have gone 13-8 at home this season, but that record is going to drop to 13-9 once the final buzzer sounds in this game. New York will enter this game ready to play angry, and aging Boston will have no idea how to handle it.
Carmelo Anthony will have a better shooting game, making his words with Garnett earlier this month a distant memory, or maybe just another chapter in the history of this great rivalry. Paul Pierce will lead the Celtics in scoring, but not even a solid effort from Rajon Rondo will be enough to slow down the hungry Knicks.
Tyson Chandler will lock himself onto Kevin Garnett and not back down for the entire game. Amar'e Stoudemire will come off the bench and provide some quality production with J.R. Smith and Steve Novak.
Most important of all is that Iman Shumpert will look even more like his usual self in this game. He'll make a statement against Boston, sinking key shots and grabbing some key steals en route to a thunderous dunk or two. The Celtics will have no answer for him, and Doc Rivers will only be able to scratch his head on the sidelines.
With all due respect to Boston, this game will be close. The Knicks may win, but not before having to deal with a few Celtics scoring runs.
However, at the last buzzer, only one team will be on top. For this game, that honor belongs to the Knicks.
New York Knicks 106, Boston Celtics 100
All statistics in this article are accurate as of January 22, 2013
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