Both the New York Knicks and Boston Celtics will be looking to get back to winning ways when the two face off on Wednesday evening. The Knicks and Celtics occupy the seventh and eighth seeds respectively in the Eastern Conference standings, although both teams have an identical 25-26 record. This is because the Knicks have won the only previous contest between the two sides this season.
Playing hard-nosed defense has been the mantra for the New York Knicks this season, but their limited scoring ability has seen them drop close games. They've gone 6-8 since the All-Star break. Julius Randle is still the go-to guy for Tom Thibodeau and is averaging 22.9 points, 10.8 rebounds and six assists per game this season.
Injuries hampered the first two months of the Boston Celtics' 2020-21 campaign, but they haven't done so spectacularly following the returns of Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart either. Brad Stevens' men have evenly split the last 10 games. Their two All-Stars in Tatum and Jaylen Brown continue to lead the show but the lack of chemistry in the squad as a whole is fairly visible.
New York Knicks vs Boston Celtics Injury Report
New York Knicks
Mitchell Robinson remains the biggest scratch for the New York Knicks. Robinson suffered a broken foot against the Miami Heat back in late March and has undergone surgery since. There's no timetable for the center's return as of now.
Julius Randle is playing a team-high 37 minutes per game for the New York Knicks. Randle's right leg was giving him trouble against the Brooklyn Nets, but he played through it and should be available to play against the Boston Celtics.
Evan Fournier had to enter the NBA's health and safety protocols ahead of the Boston Celtics' game against the Philadelphia 76ers the previous night. Fournier had scored a combined 40 points in the previous two outings and will be a huge loss for Boston against the New York Knicks.
Tristan Thompson is nearing his return after clearing the COVID-19 protocols but match fitness remains a doubt for him. Semi Ojeleye returned to Boston's lineup on Tuesday after missing six games with a hip injury and could be rested on the second night of a back-to-back.
New York Knicks vs Boston Celtics Predicted Lineups
New York Knicks
Tom Thibodeau's persistence with Immanuel Quickley on the second unit means that Elfrid Payton will continue to start as point guard for the New York Knicks. Reggie Bullock has shot the ball at 43.6% from downtown since the All-Star break and will be happy to let it fly against the Boston Celtics. Alec Burks is the third-highest scorer for the Knicks this season and will play a major role off the bench.
RJ Barrett had a double-double in the last matchup against the Boston Celtics. He's established himself as the second-best guy on the roster following Julius Randle, who'll once again line up as the power forward. Meanwhile, Nerlens Noel has done well as a rim protector in Robinson's absence, averaging two blocks per game this season.
Kemba Walker has only managed a total of 37 points in the last three games but will be hoping to do better against the New York Knicks. Marcus Smart is averaging 12.9 points and 5.4 assists per game this season, both career-highs. He'll round out the starting backcourt.
Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have carried much of the scoring load for the Boston Celtics. The duo is averaging a combined 49.2 points per game this season. After experimenting with several frontcourt combinations, head coach Brad Stevens has decided to stick with Robert Williams as the starting center and he's done well as an interior defender.
New York Knicks vs Boston Celtics Predicted Starting 5s
New York Knicks
Point Guard - Elfrid Payton | Shooting Guard - Reggie Bullock | Small Forward - RJ Barrett | Power Forward - Julius Randle | Center - Nerlens Noel
Point Guard - Kemba Walker | Shooting Guard - Marcus Smart | Small Forward - Jaylen Brown | Power Forward - Jayson Tatum | Center - Robert Williams III