Boston Celtics vs New York Knicks: Lineups, preview & prediction 2/24/18

The Celtics can continue to inch their way back toward the top of the East if they can top the Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

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(Photo Credit: Keith Allison)

After going on a poor three-game skid heading into the All-Star break, the Boston Celtics (41-19) came out with a promising 110-98 win over the Detroit Pistons in their first game back last night. It was a strong team effort for the Celtics as six players finished in double-digits. Four came off the bench and were led by rookie Daniel Theis’ 19 points and seven rebounds.

Kyrie Irving also chipped in with 18 points, five rebounds, and six assists in just 29 minutes of action. Meanwhile, Marcus Smart made a strong impact on his return from a month-long absence as he had 12 points and six assists. 

The Celtics will now take on the New York Knicks (24-36), who finally snapped their disastrous eight-game losing skid with a 120-113 win over the Orlando Magic. The Knicks were also led by a strong performance off their bench as Trey Burke exploded for 26 points in just 30 minutes of action.

Meanwhile, Tim Hardaway Jr. followed up his big 37-point explosion against the Wizards with 23 points and six assists. Point guard Emmanuel Mudiay made his first start for the team and finished with eight points, five rebounds, and four assists.

Three keys to the game

Boston bench–The Celtics will be on the second night of a back-to-back, which means they’ll need an added spark of energy off their bench. The return of Smart should help in that regard as will the continued strong play of Terry Rozier. Rozier led a 30-point blowout win over the Knicks last month as he went for a 17-point, 11-rebound, ten-assist triple-double in the absence of Kyrie Irving.

Knicks offense–The Knicks have remained productive offensively despite the loss of leading scorer Kristaps Porzingis. They’ve scored 113 or more points in three of their last four games. However, they struggled mightily to score in losses against the Raptors and Sixers, two of the top five defenses in the league. Now, they’re set to face the Celtics and their top-ranked defense.

Battle of the boards–As good as the Celtics are, they still have a glaring problem in terms of their rebounding. One of the Knicks’ best ways to come out on top in this matchup will be for Kanter to once again dominate them on the boards and bully a Boston team on the second night of a back-to-back into submission.

Matchup to watch

Jayson Tatum vs Tim Hardaway Jr.–It seems as though Hardaway has finally broken out of his horrendous shooting slump with back-to-back impressive performances. He’ll need to be at his best once again for the Knicks to remain competitive with the Celtics. However, he’ll also need to careful not to allow Tatum to go off on the other end. The Celtics rookie has had good success against the Knicks this season, averaging 18 points on 55 percent shooting in three games.

Celtics projected starting lineup

PG–Kyrie Irving | SG–Jaylen Brown | SF–Jayson Tatum | PF–Al Horford | C–Aron Baynes

Knicks projected starting lineup

PG–Emmanuel Mudiay | SG–Courtney Lee | SF–Tim Hardaway Jr. | PF–Michael Beasley | C–Enes Kanter 

Fantasy tip

Irving wasn’t needed to have a big game last night against the Pistons, which could mean he’ll be fresher to do damage against the Knicks. He dropped 32 points in his first visit to MSG this season and should relish the opportunity of doing so again as he faces subpar defenders in Mudiay and Burke.

As for the Knicks, Enes Kanter is the big player to watch fantasy-wise. The Knicks big man has gone for at least 16 points and 16 rebounds in two of his three meetings against the Celtics this season. Boston just coughed up 15 and 17 against Andre Drummond last night and could be even more susceptible to giving up a big performance on the second night of a back-to-back.

Betting tip

The Celtics may be on the second night of a back-to-back, but they should have more than enough to top the Knicks. New York’s offense has too many questions surrounding it, and the Celtics’ defense has more than enough answers. Take the Celtics to win and cover the 4.5-point spread.

Prediction

The Celtics take care of business as they beat the Knicks at MSG, 105-94.

TV info

This game will be broadcast on MSG and NBC Sports Boston. Tip-off is at 7:30 pm Eastern.

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