NEW YORK – At their best, the Boston Celtics can take an early punch or two from teams and bounce back.
But they know sooner or later, that strategy will blow up in their face.
That’s why today’s game against New York is so important to the Celtics (49-27) who are looking to among other things, get off to a better start tonight.
“I feel teams are really coming at us,” said Boston Celtics forward Jae Crowder. “We have to step up to the plate and match that. For the past two games, we’ve been hit first. We gotta get back to hitting first.”
In Boston’s 103-100 loss to Milwaukee on Wednesday, the Bucks opened the game with a 14-4 run. And on Friday, the Celtics found themselves down 14-6 to Orlando but rallied for a 117-116 victory.
The Knicks (29-47) are no different than a lot of lottery-bounds who utilize these final games of the season to evaluate talent beyond their core, superstars. And some of the bumps and bruises that players normally battle through, teams this time of year simply shut guys down which allows some of their younger, less experienced an opportunity to play more.
And while that usually spells defeat, try telling that to the Miami Heat who were beaten by New York 98-94 on Friday night. And in that game, the Knicks did not play Carmelo Anthony (back), Derrick Rose (knee) or Lance Thomas (hip).
“We just went out there and tried to not think about anything,” ex-Celtic and current New York guard Courtney Lee told reporters after the win. “Go out there and play free and have fun.”
And that makes this game far more dangerous than the records might indicate.
“It’s a trap game,” Crowder said. “Early game, those guys are playing free, these teams are coming in free.”
In many ways, the challenge isn’t so much an X’s and O’s thing. Rather, it’s about playing with the kind of effort and intensity needed to put the Knicks away early and just as important, prevent them from gaining any confidence.
“It’s definitely hard to win, especially this time of year,” said Boston’s Amir Johnson. “A lot of teams are playing freely. And I guess the best thing we can do is focus on us. We’ve had a few games where we didn’t start off well. Until we put a full game together, that’s when we’re playing well.”