Celtics take on Knicks with Playoff seeding on the line


Boston Celtics (36-25)  at New York Knicks (31-29)
Tuesday, April 17
8:00 PM ET
Regular Season Game #61 – Road Game #31
Madison Square Garden
Referees:  Dan Crawford, Tony Brown, Pat Fraher

This is the 4th and final meeting between these two division rivals this season.  The Celtics lead the series 2-1.  The Knicks won the first game of the season.  In that game, the Celtics were without Paul Pierce and Sasha Pavlovic started and had to try to guard Melo.  The Celtics won the next two games in Boston. The difference in all 3 games was just a total of 8 points so every game has come down to the final minute. 

New York is closing out a 3 game home stand while the Celtics are finishing up a 4 game road trip and playing in the 6th game in 8 nights.  Paul Pierce and KG didn't travel with the team to Charlotte and so should be rested and ready to play.  Ray Allen is meeting the team in New York and is expected to play with no limitations.  That is good news.   Amare Stoudamire is also close to a return.  He has participated in a couple of shoot arounds but is listed as doubtful for this game.  He is expected back either Wednesday against the Nets or Friday vs Cleveland.  Tyson Chandler limped through the 4th quarter against the Heat on Sunday but is expected to play in this one.  . 

This game has all kinds of playoff implications with both teams battling for playoff position.  The Celtics are in the 4th spot, 3 games behind Indiana.  They are tied with Atlanta and Orlando who are in the 5th and 6th spots.  And they are 4.5 ahead of both New York and Philly who are in the 7th and 8th spots.  New York is 2 games ahead of the Bucks who are in the 9th spot.   A win by the Celtics and a loss by Philly to Indiana (who have been playing very well) would clinch the Atlantic Division for the Celtics. 

The Celtics are 7-3 in their last 10 and the Knicks are 6-4 in their last 10.  The Celtics are 15-16 on the road while the Knicks are 20-11 at home.  The Celtics are looking for their 3rd straight win while the Knicks lost their last time out to the Heat and are looking to get back on track.  Of course, it's about payback for the Knicks as well since the Celtics have won the last 2 games between them.   They are still smarting about their exit from the playoffs last season as well.    The Celtics need to bring their A game as this is an important game for both teams and the Knicks are sure to bring theirs.

Probable Starters
PG: #9 Rajon Rondo .................................................... SG: #0  Avery Bradley

C: #5 Kevin Garnett 

SF: #34 Paul Pierce .............................................. PF #30 Brandon Bass 
Celtics Reserves
Ray Allen
Marquis Daniels
Mickael Pietrus
Keyon Dooling
E'twaun Moore
Greg Stiemsma
JaJuan Johnson
Ryan Hollins
Sasha Pavlovic


Jermaine O'Neal (wrist) out
Paul Pierce (toe) probable
Brandon Bass (knee) probable

Probable Starters
PG: #21  Iman Shumpert ............................................  SG:#85 Baron Davis

C: #6 Tyson Chandler
SF: #7 Carmelo Anthony ............................................. PF: #2 Landry Fields
Knicks Reserves
Steve Novak
Mike Bibby
JR Smith
Jerome Jordan
Josh Harrellson
Toney Douglas

Jeremy Lin (knee) out
Amare Stoudamire (back) doubtful
Tyson Chandler (knee) probable
Bill Walker (elbow)  out 

Key Matchups
Kevin Garnett vs Tyson Chandler 
This will be a battle between two tough defenders.  Chandler limped through the end of Sunday's game vs Miami after bruising his knee.  He was sore afterward but said he expected to play in this game.  KG is the reigning player of the week and should be rested after getting the game off vs the Bobcats.  This should be a fun matchup to watch. 

Paul Pierce vs Carmelo Anthony
This is a tough match up for both players and both have come up big for their teams in this matchup.  The only game the Knicks won this season was the first one in which Pierce didn't play.  Melo has averaged 32 points and 6 rebounds in the 3 meetings while Pierce averaged 32 points and 7 rebounds in the two games he has played.  Pierce should be rested and hopefully he won't be feeling any ill effects from the toe injury.  With Amare out, Melo has had to shoulder a large share of the scoring and leadership for the team and that could start wearing on him. 

Rajon Rondo vs Iman Shumpert
Rondo has faced a different point guard in each matchup with the Knicks but he's played very well against them all.  He has averaged 18.7 points, 13.3 assists and 9.0 rebounds in the 3 meetings.  With this being on national TV,  I expect another big game from Rondo.   

Keys to the Game
Start Fast and Don't Let Up The Celtics have to come out of the gates quickly and not give the Knicks a chance to gain confidence.  And the Celtics have to play 48 minutes and not let up.  They have to establish dominance and not give the Knicks any hope they can win this. 

- The Knicks have been playing good defense since Woodson took over as coach but they still aren't on the Celtics level defensively. They are ranked 11th in points allowed (94.3) and 9th in FG% allowed (43.8%) while the Celtics are ranked 3rd in points allowed (89.4) and 1st in FG% allowed (41.7%).  The Celtics have to make defense their priority and when they do, good things happen. 

- The Celtics are no longer the worst rebounding team in the league.  They've moved up to 28, averaging 39.1 rebounds per game.  The Knicks are ranked 14th, pulling down 42.4 rebounds per game.   The Celtics have got to crash the boards as a team and win the battle on the glass if they want to win this game. 

Be Aggressive - The Celtics must be the more aggressive team.  They have to be aggressive in going to the hoop and not settle for jumpers, especially if the jumpers aren't falling.  They must be aggressive on the boards and in going after loose balls and winning the 50/50 plays.  The more aggressive team gets the calls from the officials and that will be important in this game. 

Official Report
Dan Crawford
Entering his 27th NBA season, Dan Crawford has officiated 1,770 regular season and 256 playoff games, including 25 NBA Finals games. During his NBA tenure, Crawford has officiated the 1994 and 2001 NBA All-Star Games, and the 1992 Japan Games in Yokohama. Prior to joining the NBA, Crawford spent four years officiating in the CBA. He has eight years of collegiate officiating experience and officiated the 1983
and 1984 National Junior College Nationals. Crawford has been honored for his achievements in the Northeastern (Ill.) Wall of Fame. Crawford was a member of the Northeastern University basketball team. After one of the Celtics playoff games in Chicago in round 1 in 2008, there was some controversy when he was seen leaving the arena with his family all decked out in Chicago Bulls gear. He's been in the news lately because he has been accused of having a bias against Marc Cuban because the Mavs were 2-16 in games officiated by Crawford last season and Cuban has been very vocal about it. The Celtics are 1-1 this season and are 7-3 over their last 10 game with Crawford officiating. The loss this season was the against Miami game in which the Heat shot 8 more free throws than the Celtics. The win was over New Jersey where the Nets shot 10 free throws to 21 for the Celtics. The Knicks are 1-3 this season and 3-7 in their last 10 games with Crawford. His home W/L record is 27-20 this season.

Tony Brown
Brown has officiated 536 regular season games in his first nine seasons as an NBA official. Brown officiated his first playoff game during the 2010-11 season. Prior to joining the NBA, he officiated for four seasons in the NBA Development League and CBA and three in the WNBA. During that time he worked the 2002 D-League Finals, the 2002 WNBA All-Star Game and the 2001 CBA Finals for the NBDL, the CBA and the WNBA. The Celtics are 3-1 with Brown this season. The first game was the loss to the Hornets where the Celtics shot 18 free throws to 25 for the Hornets. The second was a win vs Charlotte where the Bobcats shot 20 free throws to 8 for the Celtics. The third game was a win over the Warriors where the Celtics shot 21 free throws to 19 for the Warriors. And the 4th game was a win where the Bucks shot 20 free throws to 10 for the Celtics. The Celtics are 5-5 in their last 10 games with Brown. The Knicks are 0-2 this season and 4-6 in their last 10. His home W/L record is 27-19.

Pat Fraher
Pat Fraher has officiated 614 regular season NBA games and nine Playoff games
entering this season. Prior to joining the NBA, Fraher officiated for seven years in the CBA, where he worked the CBA Finals and All-Star game. In addition, Fraher spent four years with the WNBA, where he officiated playoff games in both the WNBA Eastern and Western Conference Finals. Fraher also has two years collegiate officiating experience with the NSIC and 10 years experience as a high school official in his home state of Minnesota. The Celtics are 0-1 this season and 6-4 over their last 10 games with Fraher. The loss this season was vs OKC where the Thunder shot 19 free throws to 16 for the Celtics. The Knicks are 1-2 this season and 3-7 over their last 10 games officiated by Fraher. He is a homer ref with a W/L record this season of 34-14.

Fatigue, Injuries and Officiating
The Celtics are playing in their 6th game in 8 nights and in their 4th straight on the road and they may be mentally fatigued as much as physically fatigued.   But the big 3 should be rested as they had the last game off.  Injuries could be a factor if Pierce is limited,  if Ray can't play, if Amare is back, or if Chandler is limited. Both teams are a bit banged up and will need to play through the injuries.    Another factor could be the officiating.  If this game is close as the others have been, if the officials are leaning toward one team or the other, it could make a difference.