Outside of Kevin Durant, no current (and healthy) NBA player has scoring engrained in their DNA more than Carmelo Anthony. His size, especially his wide frame for his height, and his athleticism make Anthony a tough matchup for anyone trying to guard him. He fits that description as someone who is too quick for opposing Power Forward and too big for Small Forwards.
Most recently, Anthony scored a Madison Square Garden record 62 points, more than Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, and everyone else who got to play at MSG. He also set a franchise record for points in a game, more than Bernard King, a player who ‘Melo has been compared with since his arrival to New York.
So what can the Celtics do to quell Anthony and force one of the most inconsistent supporting casts in the league to beat them tonight?
The Celtics do have three players that can share time guarding Anthony with Jeff Green, Gerald Wallace, and Brandon Bass. Bass may be the most capable of all three, but Anthony will more than likely get his 24 to 30 points. The question is can Bass and company force him to score his points on around 25 shots. Hopefully having a fresh body on ‘Melo every five or six minutes can tire him out by the time the game reaches the 4th quarter.
Jared Sullinger and the rest of the bigs have an interesting task of their own. With a lot of mid-range and three-point shots going up tonight from the Knicks, they will have to keep Tyson Chandler from grabbing offensive boards, or creating more possessions with his patented swat-back rebounding method. Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk, Bass and others will have to really body up, considering they lack the length to try and out-jump even the decrepit Amare Stoudemire.
And finally, the backcourt matchup. Rajon Rondo will play around 30 minutes tonight, as he will be most likely miss tomorrow’s game because it’s a back-to-back affair. Raymond Felton went against Avery Bradley and others in the NBA playoffs and was exceptional, so it will be interesting to see him and Rondo go at each other for the first time in a while.
Felton has had a down season and so has JR Smith. These are the guys the Celtics want to make beat them tonight. Iman Shumpert and Tim Hardaway Jr. have been good complementary players and can fill in the offense if JR and Felton don’t have it going. Look for Jerryd Bayless and Phil Pressey to pressure those Shooting Guards into putting the ball on the floor. If they don’t, and the Knicks spread the floor with ease, it may be a long night for the Celtic guards.
The Celtics defense has showed up most nights and tonight should be no different. They have given ‘Melo fits as of late and have been able to limit opponents second chance opportunities. It will be interesting to see if the Knicks can win and really put together a winning streak in a season that has been surrounded by so much turmoil.
Prediction: Celtics 92, Knicks 89