The Boston Celtics (8-3) and New York Knicks (5-8) play at 1 p.m. today to cap a short homestand for Boston before a string of road games (9 of their next 11) into February. Kemba Walker is active and will make his season debut after the completion of his stem cell left knee therapy.
Jayson Tatum and Robert Williams III remain out due to COVID-19. Daniel Theis will play through a finger injury on his right hand suffered in Friday’s win over Orlando. Tacko Fall is questionable with an ankle sprain, while Carsen Edwards is still in COVID protocol. The Knicks will be without Frank Ntilikina, with Alec Burks doubtful. Nerlens Noel and Mitchell Robinson are probable.
According to the online sports book Betonline.ag, the Celtics are 7 point favorites over New York, losers of five straight.
- Celtics vs. Knicks spread: Celtics -7
- Celtics vs. Knicks over-under: 211.5 points
- Celtics vs. Knicks money line: Celtics -300, Knicks +250
Welcome back Kemba Walker. The Celtics guard underwent an eight-week stem cell therapy program in his left knee to regenerate cartilage after years of multiple knee surgeries. Boston brought him along slowly into preseason, with opening night sooner than expected, and Brad Stevens said he would return when he looks like Kemba again.
That moment is here after an encouraging Thursday practice and Friday walkthrough. His pain gone and his cutting back, he’s confident that this plan will go better than an abbreviated entry into the Bubble, one Danny Ainge admitted might’ve been too fast. Walker will play roughly 20 minutes today.
Walker can lead bench units alongside Marcus Smart and Payton Pritchard, helping set up two of the better catch-and-shoot guards this year. Jaylen Brown continued his sizzling on-ball scoring with the starting unit Friday, likely leading to some possessions where Walker plays off-ball with the starters. Walker’s strength early on likely revolves around bouncing around screens for pull-up threes.
The Knicks started hot and cooled back into the Knicks this last week. They rank last in the NBA in field goals made. Julius Randle is carrying the load offensively compiling 23.2 points, 10.2 rebounds and 6.7 assists per game in his breakout season.
Their defense carried them early in the season, a Tom Thibodeau staple, cutting off threes and forcing teams into the lane against their bigs. The Celtics love the three ball, setting up an interesting contrast of styles as New York tries to stop one of the hottest inside-out offenses in the league. Brown and Walker can break them down from the mid range.
The Celtics will utilize Grant Williams often to try to counter Randle at the four spot. Daniel Theis will try to eat when Randle shifts to center in the pick-and-roll, an old Walker running-mate, while Tristan Thompson draws another tough matchup against Robinson inside after helping stifle Nikola Vucevic on Friday.
Boston 120 New York 106.