What’s up with the Boston Celtics?
The Boston Celtics have been a tough matchup all season, but meeting them at this point in the season couldn’t be the worst timing. The Celtics are blazing hot after the All-Star break (or since the All-Star break if you count the Jaylen Brown-Jayson Tatum duel at the All-Star Game) and are looking every bit like the top-seeded team in the East that they are.
They’re coming off a huge, dramatic win against the Philadelphia 76ers, a team that can cause matchup problems just because of Joel Embiid’s existence. The Celtics countered that by having everyone chip in. So despite Embiid’s 41, Boston came out with the victory, thanks to a game-winning 3 by Tatum.
The Celtics have now won three straight and while Tatum was the undeniable hero in the Sixers win, Brown should get his much-deserved flowers for being Boston’s guy. Against Philly, Brown scored a team-high 26 points and steered the ship when Tatum’s shots weren’t falling. He has scored at least 25 points in five of his last six games, which means a whole lot of trouble for opposing teams that think Tatum is the problem.
What’s up with the New York Knicks?
Like the Celtics, the New York Knicks have figured it out. After a so-so start to the season, the Knicks have picked it up and are starting to roll along with the team’s new look. They’ve just defeated a tough New Orleans Pelicans team at home in convincing fashion. However, it’s not the margin of victory (22 points) that made it special, it’s the vibes.
The Knicks played with pure joy, an unseen trait from the early months–or if you’re really following this team, way back to last season. Julius Randle, who at all times is under the New York fanbase microscope, was seen a couple of times playing with a smile on his face. Aside from, of course, the leadership of Jalen Brunson, Randle’s attitude has been the huge difference.
After dropping a season-high 46 in a win over the Washington Wizards, Randle scored 28 points on five 3s versus the Pelicans. He's now scored 22 points or more in three straight games. Extend that, and Randle is an automatic 22-plus points in 10 of his last 11 games. The result? The Knicks are enjoying a five-game winning streak and holding an attractive 35-27 record. They’re at fifth in the East, just behind the Brooklyn Nets.
Storyline to watch out for
With both teams protecting their respective winning streaks, expect an instant classic that could go either way, depending on who gets hot first. Tatum and Brown are in the kind of zone right now that no team would want to mess with, but you could easily say the same for Randle and Brunson.
While the Celtics are obviously the favorites as the top team in the East, the Knicks are out to prove they belong in the conversation of elite teams in their conference. This game against the Celtics is the perfect test.
Unless Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau has the secret codes to lockdown both Tatum and Brown, the Celtics look to be a team that’s in playoff form. Expect the Knicks to put up a decent fight though.