Celtics-Knicks preview: Melo-drama in Boston

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Celtics-Knicks preview: Melo-drama in Boston

BOSTON Regardless of the records, when Boston faces the New York Knicks it is usually a big game. Tonight's is no exception.

This will be the first time the two teams have faced off since the Jan. 7 "Melo-drama" incident in which Knicks All-Star Carmelo Anthony, upset with some of Kevin Garnett's in-game trash talk, initially went towards the C's locker room and later waited for Garnett by the C's team bus.

The league wound up suspending Anthony one game for his actions.

While that will certainly be a topic of discussion leading up to tonight's game, the Celtics have much bigger problems on their plate.

There's the four-game losing streak they are currently on which is equal to their longest losing skid this season.

A loss tonight by the Celtics would be just the third, five-game losing streak since Kevin Garnett arrived in Boston prior to the 2008 title run.

The two previous such skids? They came during last season's lockout-shortened season.

But the mindset of the C's right now isn't on avoiding another loss, but rather finding a way to win.

The goal now isn't all that different than what it has been all season, which is to develop some form of consistent play.

But more than that, the C's need a win ... now.

"We all understood when we came here that this was going to be a process," C's guard Jason Terry told CSNNE.com. "It's just that the process is taking a little longer than we thought it would. But it's still a process. There's a lot of season still left to play and even though we're not playing as well as we would want to be now, there's still time for us to get it going, start stringing some wins here together and position ourselves to achieve our goals."

Here are some keys to tonight's game against the Knicks who come in atop the Atlantic Division despite having lost four of their last six games which includes a home loss to the Celtics.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: All eyes will be on Kevin Garnett and Carmelo Anthony to see if there's any residual beef between them after the Jan. 7 incidents. Both have said it's done with and there won't be any issues. But with these two highly emotional players, what they say and what we see may not necessarily be one in the same.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Avery Bradley vs Iman Shumpert. Two of the best on-the-ball defenders you'll find in the NBA, it'll be interesting to see which of them will make the greatest difference in terms of impact tonight either with their defense or shot-making. Because of the players around them, chances are pretty good that both will have a decent amount of wide open to lightly contested shots for the taking.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Paul Pierce has questioned whether some of his teammates understand the sense of urgency that the C's need to have, but the Captain has to do more than talk the talk. He is in the midst of one of his usual shooting slumps, but the sooner he can snap out of it the quicker the C's recovery -- if they are to have one this season -- will begin to take shape.

STAT TO TRACK: Free throw shooting has been a major factor in the C's last four games - all losses. Not are the Celtics shooting a lower percentage (69.2 percent compared to opponents shooting 77.6 percent in the last four games), but they are not getting to the line nearly enough. How bad has it been? The C's last four opponents have made a total of 90 free throws (out of 116 attempts). In that same span, the Celtics have taken just 91 free throws (63 made).

Did Suns ask Josh Jackson to cancel his Celtics workout to keep him from Boston?

Did Suns ask Josh Jackson to cancel his Celtics workout to keep him from Boston?

Danny Ainge made no secret of being miffed when Kansas small forward Josh Jackson canceled his workout with the Celtics in Sacramento at the last minute. 

The Celtics, of course, passed on Jackson and selected Jayson Tatum of Duke with the third overall pick in the NBA Draft on Thursday night.

Suns GM Ryan McDonough's comments at Jackson's introductory press conference lend some credence to the theory that the canceled workout was part of Phoenix's plan to keep the Celtics from selecting Jackson and leave him for the Suns at No. 4.

Check out this portion of Jackson's presser via a tweet from Mike McClune of KPHO-TV: 

"I think you guys who know me well know how competitive I am. Look, it is a competition," said McDonough, a former assistant GM to Ainge with the C's "The Celtics were ahead of us at No. 3 and they could have selected whoever they wanted to. I think they got a very good player in Jayson Tatum, but that doesn’t mean B.J. [Armstrong, Jackson's agent] and I and...other members of my staff couldn’t talk and try to formulate the best plan to get a player we were really high on to a place we felt he really wanted to go and would be a great fit for him.

"We played by the rules – I guess,” McDonough said to some laughter in the room.

Jackson will certainly get more playing time with the rebuilding Suns that the contending Celtics. Ainge called Jackson "a terrific kid and a good player” after the draft, and said the Celtics were set on Tatum all along, even if they hadn't traded the No. 1 pick.

Jackson said his decision to blow off Ainge coach Brad Stevens and assistant GM Mike Zarren after their cross-country flight was "last-minute" and his plans to work out "just didn't work out."
 

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Is trading for Paul George worth the risk?

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BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Is trading for Paul George worth the risk?

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0:41 - Michael Holley, Kayce Smith and Tom Giles recap their thoughts on drafting Jayson Tatum and trade rumors involving the Celtics.

6:21 - Ian Thomsen joins BST to discuss if it would be worth trading for Paul George as a one-year rental and if there would be a chance he could still around long-term if traded to Boston.

11:13 - Evan Drellich joins BST to talk about Rick Porcello’s outing, the Red Sox offense coming to life, and Doug Fister being claimed by the Red Sox. 

15:10 - Kyle Draper and A. Sherrod Blakely look back at the Celtics/Nets trade, what the assets have turned into, and if Danny Ainge has done a good job turning those assets into players.