New York Knicks: 3 keys to beating the Boston Celtics

New York Knicks, Julius Randle
Dec 13, 2020; Detroit, Michigan, USA; New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (30) goes up for a shot against Detroit Pistons guard Wayne Ellington (8) during the second quarter at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks are currently on a five-game losing streak, with their last defeat coming against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Knicks lost by just three points, making it their ninth straight game where they’ve allowed more than 100 points to their opponent. They are currently four games behind in the Atlantic standings, preparing to face off against the Boston Celtics, who are currently in first place and on a five-game winning streak.

This season has been incredibly difficult for the Knicks so far, forcing them to travel routinely. For new teams with new coaching staff’s and faces, the lack of preseason and time to iron out the kinks was unavailable. The NBA jumped right into things, and NY has been trying to play catch-up ever since.

“That’s the challenge of the season,” coach Tom Thibodeau said Saturday after practice in Boston. “Shortened training camp and we started with a schedule that’s a little unusual in terms of the travel part of it. So you have to manage it as best you can. So it’s a lot of film sessions, there’s a lot of individual film sessions, there’s walkthroughs in the ballroom. Then when we have the opportunity to get over to practice, we want to take advantage of that.

Ultimately, becoming a quality team starts in practice. Playing hard against each other and refining their fundamentals is what needs to be done, and Thibodeau understands that playing hard in practice translates to the real thing.

“We said at the beginning, the first step was to become a great practice team. I think we’re making some steps in that direction. I know when we practice well, we usually play well.”

“I think the way we’re practicing right now, when we do get the opportunity to practice, has been very positive,” Thibodeau said. “We’ve fallen short in this streak. But I do want us to focus on that improvement and getting better. As we get guys back, I think we’ll get a rhythm offensively in terms of making shots. And then we gotta get our defense going. When we do that, we’ll win.”

The Knicks are going to need a bit of luck to beat the Celtics, who are currently 8-3 and 4-1 at home. According to ESPN’s Basketball Power Index, the Celtics have a 74.4% chance of emerging victorious against the Knicks on Sunday afternoon.

Three keys for the New York Knicks to beat the Boston Celtics:

1.) Limit the turnovers

The Knicks have committed unnecessary turnovers during their losing streak, but have improved in the category gradually. Against the Cavaliers, they turned the ball over just 12 times, far less than the 15 average several games prior.

Against the Brooklyn Nets, they turned it over just nine times, so it is clearly a priority for them during practice. Being disciplined with the ball in your hands is essential, but they still need more work and consistency there.

2.) Start Immanuel Quickley

The New York Knicks need to make the executive decision to rotate Elfrid Payton from the bench and not start him regularly.

Immanuel Quickley is proving to be the better offensive player, and his tenacious defense is exactly what head coach Tom Thibodeau is looking for.

Against Cleveland, Quickley played in 28 minutes compared to Payton’s 20. During that time, he scored 23 points and shot 9-of-17 from the field. He also picked up four assists, indicating better court vision. His development has been one of the single positive things for the Knicks this season, so far, and elevating him to the starting squad should happen sooner rather than later.

3.) Play more aggressive defense and contest 3-pointers

One of Thibodeau’s primary fundamentals is playing aggressive defense. As stated before, the Knicks have allowed 100 points or more in nine straight games, which can’t make the veteran head coach happy.

Thibodeau is undoubtedly utilizing practice time to increase his players’ defensive abilities, as he believes the shots will come. Spreading the floor and opening up high-probability shots is his game, but the Knicks simply haven’t lived up to his expectations on defense. The Celtics have a fantastic offensive team, so slowing them down will be a priority for New York.