Bob DeChiara

New York Knicks Host Boston Celtics in Atlantic Division Battle Preview

Knicks look for revenge and second place in the Atlantic against the Celtics

Second place in the Atlantic Division is on the line for the New York Knicks as they look for revenge against the Boston Celtics at the Garden.

Since these teams last met, the roles have been reversed. Boston handled the Knicks on December 27th, cruising to their fourth win in-a-row. The Celtics kept the Knicks under 40% from the field.

But as the calendar turned to 2016 these two rivals have gone in different directions. The Knicks have gone 4-2 in their last six games due in large part to spreading the ball around.

Over the past month, we've seen Carmelo Anthony attempt less shots per game, which has allowed fellow starters Kristaps Porzingis and Aaron Aflalo to take a bigger role in the offense. Porzingis' shots per game are up three from 11 to 13.5, and Afflalo is now averaging nearly 13 field goals attempts. With these two taking a larger role in the scoring it has opened the floor up for teammates and forcing opposing defenses to play the entire floor, not just lock down Anthony.

On the other end of the floor, the Knicks still haven't found their identity on defense. Their kryptonite has been defending near the rim and the last time they played the Celtics in late December Isaiah Thomas burned them for 21 points.

The Knicks big men have been getting into foul trouble early and often. Robin Lopez has been averaging 3.2 fouls per game and Porzingis has had some highlight reel blocks, but still has to learn to defend the NBA level post more effectively. 

These teams are on opposite trajectories since their last meeting, but the same issues that plagued the Knicks in their last meeting could hurt them again in this meeting at Madison Square Garden. 

By: Joe Grushko 

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