Celtics host Knicks looking to avenge Christmas Day loss

New York Knicks (8-14) at Boston Celtics (11-10)
Friday, February 3
8:00 PM ET
Regular Season Game #22, Home Game #14
TD Garden
Referees:  Monty McCutchen,  Curtis Blair,  Eric Dalen

This is the second meeting between these two division rivals (or maybe not, depending on who you listen to). They met for the first time for a wild game on Christmas Day.  In that game, the Knicks overcame an 8 point deficit in the 4th quarter to beat the Celtics 106-104. However, the Celtics didn't have Paul Pierce in that game.  Sasha Pavlovic had the honor of guarding Carmelo Anthony, who scored 37 points, 17 of which came in the 4th quarter.

With Pierce back in the lineup and playing well, hopefully Melo won't have quite as easy a time of it. Pierce always makes it a personal challenge to stop the overly hyped opponents like Carmelo Anthony.    Also making it a little more difficult for the Knicks is the fact that they played Chicago on national TV last night and had to fight to the end of a close loss.   Their starters all played heavy minutes in the game.  The Celtics had last night off and a very easy game the night before.  Another difference from the team that played on Christmas Day is the addition of Mickael Pietrus to the bench, which is a significant addition. 

While Paul Pierce insists that the Knicks and Celtics aren't a rivalry,  things certainly do get heated between these two teams when they play.   The Christmas Day game had 6 technical fouls called and that's pretty much the norm when these two teams go at it.  Expect another heated and hard fought battle in this game as well.

Probable Starting Matchups
Point Guard
Rajon Rondo  15.0 PPG,  5.10 RPG,  9.4 APG   1.7 SPG
Iman Shumpert  10.6 PPG, 3.4 RPG,  3.3 APG   2.2 SPG
I'm going on wishful thinking here.  We've been hearing for a couple of weeks that Rondo is day to day and on Wednesday Doc said that Rondo was very close and could come back for this game.  Sherrod Blakely posted that Rondo took part in the shoot around and all indications are that he will return for this game.  So, I'm putting him in as point guard for this matchup.  Rondo gives up 4 inches to Shumpert but Rondo has an experience advantage.  The Celtics need to take care of the ball with Shumpert on the floor as he is averaging 2.2 steals a game.   Rondo had 31 points, 13 assists and five rebounds in the first meeting.  Shumpert came off the bench and left the game with a knee injury so we didn't really see a lot of him.  He has, however, beaten Toney Douglas, Jeremy Lin,   and Mike Bibby out for the starting spot. 

Ray Allen  14.9 PPG,  2.9 RPG,  2.9APG,  .564 3P%
Landry Fields  9.6 PPG, 3.9 RPG,  3.0 APG,  .273 3P%
Again, Fields has a height advantage over Ray (2").  Fields is a good defender but will be hard pressed to stay with Ray through all of the screens so hopefully Ray will be able to get his shot off as the Celtics need his scoring.

Paul Pierce  17.8 PPG,  5.4 RPG, 5.5 APG,  .433 FG%
Carmelo Anthony  23.7 PPG,  6.6 RPG,  4.9 APG,  .404 FG%
This is one of the marquee matchups in the league.  Both players are tough and both can take the ball to the hoop or hit from outside and both can find an open teammate if they don't have the shot.  Melo has a habit of swinging elbows and so Celtics need to be careful not to catch one in the head.  This will be a fun matchup to keep an eye on.  Paul Pierce has been playing some very good basketball and hopefully he will continue in this game.

Kevin Garnett   13.1 PPG,  7.20 RPG,  2.8 APG,  1.1 BPG, 1.000 3P%
Amar'e Stoudemire  17.6 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 1.5 APG,  0.7 BPG,  .357 3P%
This is a great matchup.  Expect some trash talk and physical wrestling for position between these two.

Jermaine O'Neal  5.9 PPG,  5.3 RPG,  0.5 APG,  1.4 BPG
Tyson Chandler 11.0 PPG,  10.1 RPG, 1.1APG,  1.3 BPG
The Knicks have an advantage at this position.  Jermaine has said he is concentrating on defense and the Celtics could use some defense against Chandler in this one and keep him away from the boards.  .     


Celtics Reserves
Brandon Bass
Avery Bradley
Mickael Pietrus
Chris Wilcox
E'Twaun Moore
JaJuan Johnson
Sasha Pavlovic
Marquis Daniels
Greg Stiemsma

Keyon Dooling (hip) day to day
Rajon Rondo (wrist)  day to day

Key off the Bench

Brandon Bass 12.0 PPG, 6.4 RPG  0.9 APG   .486 FG%

Mickael Pietrus 8.3 PPG,  2.6 RPG,  0.4 APG,  .387 3P%

Knicks Reserves
Bill Walker
Jared Jeffries
Steve Novak
Jeremy Lin
Mike Bibby
Toney Douglas
Renaldo Balkman
Jerome Jordan

Josh Harrellson (wrist) out
Baron Davis  (back) out

Key off the Bench

Toney Douglas 8.7 PPG, 2.0 RPG,  2.6 APG,  .324 FG%

Bill Walker 6.3 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 1.4 APG, .437 FG%

Keys to the Game
Bench Play  -  The starting lineups for these two teams are fairly close as far as production.  The difference is going to be when the reserves come into the game.  Since the Knicks played on the night before, they may need to rely on their bench a little more than the Celtics. The Celtics didn't have Pietrus during the first game and he has made a big difference for the team.  The Celtics' reserves may be the difference in this game.

Defense -  The saying that defense wins championships is very true.    The Celtics ability to get stops will be a big key in winning this game.  It would be nice to see them come out from the start playing lock down defense and not allow the Knicks to get going.  The Celtics seem to be finding their defensive identity once again and they need to keep that as a priority in this game.  

Move the Ball - When the Celtics move the ball and make the extra pass and find the open man, they are a very tough team.  They need to play unselfish team ball from start to finish in this game.  

Be Aggressive - The Celtics must be the more aggressive team.  They have to win the 50-50 balls.  They must be more aggressive in diving for loose balls, going for rebounds, and driving to the basket.  The more aggressive team usually gets the benefit of the calls and also usually wins the game.  We know the Knicks are going to be aggressive and the Celtics must be more so.

Rebound - The Celtics must make an effort to crash the boards and win the rebounding battle.   They can limit the Knicks second chance points as well as their fast breaks by beating them to the rebounds.  The Celtics need to gang rebound and have every player go to the boards when a shot goes up.  The team that wins the rebounding battle is usually the team that wants the win more and therefore is usually the team that wins the game.

Official Report

Monty McCutchen
Fouls Called on Home Team: 19.94
Fouls Called on Road Team: 20.61
McCutchen has been officiating games since 1993 and wears number 13. McCutchen missed the 1998-99 season with a ruptured Achilles tendon. He is a former elementary and middle school teacher and is fondly remembered by his students as a really nice guy. In searching for information on him, I found a Cavs' blog that blamed a loss to the Celtics on the officiating of Monty McCutchen. That was the game where Mike Brown was ejected and the Cavs made a furious comeback but fell short. Other than that, there's not a lot of controversy about McCutchen. Monty McCutchen has officiated 1,085 regular season, 80 playoff, and four Finals games. He worked the 2007 NBA All-Star Game in Las Vegas and was a member of the crew that officiated the 1996 and 1997 Mexico Challenges, as well as the 1998 Schick Rookie Game. Prior to joining the NBA, McCutchen spent four seasons in the CBA, where he worked the All Star game his second year and the playoffs all four years. He also officiated the CBA Finals the last three years he was with the league. The Celtics are 7-3 in their last 10 games with McCutchen on the court. The Knicks are 3-7 in their last 10. His home W/L record this season is 11-7.

Curtis Blair
Fouls Called on Home Team: 20.0
Fouls Called on Road Team: 20.47
Curtis Blair is entering his fourth NBA season having officiated 164 regular season games. Blair has six seasons of NBA D-League experience and worked the 2008 NBA D-League Finals. He also officiated in several college conferences. Blair graduated with a degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Richmond in 1992 where he
was a member of the 1991 Men’s basketball team that upset Syracuse in the NCAA Tournament. He was drafted by the Houston Rockets in 1992 but never played a game for the Rockets. He played professionally in Australia, Austria and
Turkey. Following his overseas playing career, Blair became a referee in the NBA. Celtics are 8-2 in their last 10 games and 1-0 this season with Blair as an official. The game this season was a 19 point win over the Nets in which the Celtics shot 21 free throws to 10 for the Nets. The Knicks are 4-6 in their last 10 games with Blair and 0-1 this season. His home W/L record this season is 11-6.

Eric Dalen
Fouls Called on Home Team: 18.65
Fouls Called on Road Team: 19.94
Dalen has been a referee in the NBA since 2008. Eric Dalen officiated 172 regular season games in his first three NBA seasons. Prior to the NBA, Dalen worked for five seasons in the NBA Development League and officiated the 2008 D-League All Star Game and the Finals. He also officiated for three years in the Southeastern Conference. Dalen was a two-year letter winner at the University of Minnesota where he played tight end for the football team. I couldn't find much on the guy other than an article where Andrew Bynum was complaining about Dalen calling all 6 fouls on him in a game in 2008. The Celtics are 5-5 in their last 10 games with Dalen. They are 1-0 this season with the win coming against the Wizards in which both teams shot 23 free throws. The Knicks are 4-6 in their last 10 games with Dalen officiating. They are 0-1 this season. His home W/L record this season is 14-3.

Rondo and Energy
Rondo's availability could be a big factor in how this game comes out.   But, whether Rondo plays or not, the team's energy will be a factor.  The Celtics need to come out strong and play with energy the whole game. Also, how will the Celtics react as a team to having Rondo back?   The Knicks are playing in the second of back to back games so fatigue could be a factor for them by the end of the game.