The Celtics and Knicks are going in opposite directions
It was on January 22nd that the Celtics were a game over .500, and the Knicks were just a half a game back at 22-22. Now? The Celtics have surged to third place in the Eastern Conference, winners of 15 of their last 19. The Knicks have free-falled, going 3-15 over the same stretch.
For the Celtics, team chemistry and an "us against the world" mentality has them firmly entrenched in the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference. From Jimmy Toscano at CSNNE.com:
"It starts off the court," Marcus Smart said after the Celtics' 116-93 win over the Blazers. "We like each other off the court as individuals, we’re all considered friends. And we look at each other that way. So, when you have that type of bond, that chemistry off the court, it transfers onto the court.
Watching the Celtics, you can see them playing as a team and not a bunch of individuals. There are no hard feelings when a starter is taken out for a bench player, or vice versa. The defense has become contagious, and the ball is whipping around the court in hopes for the best shot.
"No one’s getting upset with anybody when they take a shot," Smart said. "We just stay encouraging each other and we’re all playing for one another. When you have a group of guys, the five on the court, then you have the rest of the guys on the bench who are cheering them on and shouting down the stretch, things like that, it makes the team much stronger.
For the Celtics, tonight marks an opportunity to go undefeated on a five game homestand. On a Friday night in the Garden, the Celts have a chance to stretch their home winning streak to 13 games against a team in a downward spiral. It would tie the longest such winning streak in the history of the TD Garden. And yes, it's a trap game:
Celtics host Knicks Friday. It's a big "Hey, don't think you're awesome after routing Portland & can win without putting in the effort" game
This Celtics team needs to grind to be effective. Let's see if they can keep their foot on the gas for the full 48 against the Knicks tonight and come out with another convincing win. With Miami playing the Sixers tonight, they need a win to keep their 1.5 game lead over the Heat for third place in the Eastern Conference.