Three Keys: Boston Celtics vs. New York Knicks


Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

At this point in the season, every single game is critical for the Boston Celtics. 11 games remain on the schedule and defeating the lowly New York Knicks on Friday is of major importance in regards to the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference.

Boston currently holds a half-game lead over the Indiana Pacers, Brooklyn Nets and Charlotte Hornets for the 8th and final playoff position. Knocking off the Knicks at Madison Square Garden is especially imperative if the Celtics hope to maintain ground in the standings. That’s not to mention the high-flying Clippers will invade Boston on Sunday in what will be a difficult game to win.

The Knicks are the easiest remaining game left on Boston’s schedule this season. With that said though, it will by no means be a slam dunk in the win column. New York may be on a five-game skid, but just last week they upset the San Antonio Spurs.

Here are three things the Celtics must do in order to avoid a let down.

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1. Control the glass

Limiting the opposition’s second-chance points through sound rebounding is always key, but on the flip-side of things, the Celtics should be able to work the Knicks on the offensive glass. Tyler Zeller will be the guy to watch in this one. The Knicks have no one that can challenge him in the post. Zeller’s been scoring and rebounding well of late. Look for that trend to continue with Andrea Bargnani and company manning the paint for New York.

2. Establish control early

Boston played a lackadaisical style of basketball through the first three quarters of Wednesday’s loss to the Heat. New York has folded in recent games after falling behind early. They’ve been trounced by an average of nearly 20 points amid their losing streak. Look for Brad Stevens to get everyone involved with the hopes of running up an insurmountable first-half lead.

3. Get Isaiah Thomas involved

Thomas was clearly out of sync upon his return to the lineup on Wednesday following an eight-game layoff. He scored just four points in 20 minutes of action off the bench. With an extra day of preparation under his belt, look for Thomas to take a major stride in returning to his normal self. The Celtics desperately need his production down the stretch. Playing the Knicks presents a prime opportunity to re-establish his game.