Celtics - Knicks preview: We're talkin' about playoffs

Celtics - Knicks preview: We're talkin' about playoffs
March 26, 2013, 9:45 am
Share This Post

BOSTON — There's always a little extra somethin' somethin' at stake when the Boston Celtics face the New York Knicks, and tonight's game is no exception.

You have a pair of streaking teams going in the opposite direction, with New York having won its last four while the Celtics return home after losing its last four.

But maybe more than anything, there's a chance that these two will meet in the first round of the playoffs which is even more incentive for the Celtics to step their game up.

"The sense of urgency has to pick up," said Celtics Captain Paul Pierce. "Being that this is a team you may face in the playoffs, you get a chance to beat them a couple more times ... that's gotta be motivation."

Motivation and focus have been synonymous with the C's season - up and down.

Big wins over the likes of Miami, Oklahoma City and Indiana are weighed down by disappointing losses to Charlotte (twice) and New Orleans (twice) this season.

But that's in the past now, and there's nothing the Celtics can do about it now.

The focus now has to be on improving, playing with more consistency and that journey begins tonight against the New York Knicks in what will be their third meeting after splitting the first two games.

They will meet one more time in the regular season on Sunday in what may be the final tune-up between them before they face off in the playoffs.

For Pierce, that makes tonight's game as well as the one on Sunday even more important for the Celtics to win.

"This is a team you might face (in the playoffs)," Pierce said. "You wanna put a little bit of doubt in their minds."

Here are some factors to keep an eye on heading into tonight's game.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: The Knicks will still take a ton of 3s, but they don't look for the shot as much now as they did earlier this season. They average 28.8 3s per game, second only to the Houston Rockets (28.9) this season. But during their current four-game winning streak, they average 24.5 3s per game which ranks fifth in the league during that span.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Courtney Lee vs. Pablo Prigioni: There are at least a couple sexier matchups than this, but Lee's athleticism should allow him to attack Prigioni off the dribble and find success around the basket against a Tyson Chandler-less Knicks team.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Paul Pierce will have to produce at both ends of the floor, a difficult task when you consider he'll have to try and limit Carmelo Anthony who like Pierce, is a big-time scorer.

STAT TO TRACK: New York's defense has been surprisingly strong of late and has been a major contributor to their current four-game winning streak. In the last four games, opponents are shooting 44.2 percent from the field which is the ninth-best field goal percentage defense during that span. For the season, opponents have shot 45.7 percent against them which ranks 18th in the league.