Celtics-Knicks preview: Rebounding in New York

Celtics-Knicks preview: Rebounding in New York
January 7, 2013, 8:51 pm
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NEW YORK The Boston Celtics are rebounding -- literally and figuratively -- quite well these days.

Lost in the strong play defensively by the C's in their back-to-back wins, has been Boston winning the battle of the boards by four per game.

It is a trend they hope to continue tonight against a New York Knicks club that, like the Celtics, has also ranked among the NBA's worst rebounding teams.

The Knicks come into tonight's game ranked 25th with 48.6 rebounds per game.

But the rebounding numbers for both teams can be a bit deceiving when you consider both rank among the NBA's top shooting teams which means there are fewer rebounds available.

Despite the poor rebounding numbers, both rank among the league's top 10 in defensive rebound percentage.

"The bottom line is we have to improve in everything we do," C's forward Brandon Bass said recently. "Rebounding is included in that."

Here are a few keys to tonight's game as the Celtics (16-17) look to extend their winning streak to three in a row which would tie their season high for consecutive wins this season.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Boston's three-point defense has to be on top of its game against a Knicks team that lives by the long ball. New York is averaging league highs in three-pointers made (11.3) and taken (29.2) this season.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Paul Pierce vs. Carmelo Anthony. Two explosive scorers, Pierce's timely scoring and leadership of late has been critical to the Celtics starting to look like the defensive-minded C's of old. And Anthony has been instrumental in New York's ascension this season which has him very much in the thick of league MVP conversations.

PLAYER TO WATCH: J.R. Smith has been among the top backups this season, and should be on everyone's short list for the league's Sixth Man of the Year award. He's averaging a career-high 16.7 points per game and has had 20 or more points in five of New York's last six games.

STAT TO TRACK: Boston's pressure defense needs to do what few teams have done against New York this season -- force them into turning the ball over. The Knicks are averaging a league-low 11 turnovers per game. Meanwhile the C's are forcing 15.8 turnovers per game which ranks fifth in the league. In Boston's last two games, C's opponents averaged 20 turnovers per game.