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Thursday, July 9, 2020

Knicks and Amar’e Stoudemire Have Something to Prove Against Celtics, Heat

The New York Knicks are riding an eight game winning streak during which Amar’e Stoudemire has scored at least 30 points per game, but they’ve mostly been getting fat off less-than-stellar teams. That’s not to say the team isn’t ascending compared to how poorly they had played the previous several seasons.

The next three days are going to give us a better idea of how good the Knicks really are, as they face the Celtics and Heat in their next two games. The Celtics come in to Madison Square Garden with a 10-game win streak intact and the Heat just have to beat the Cavaliers — which shouldn’t be a problem — and they’ll also be on a 10-game win streak going into Friday’s game.

The last time the Celtics and Knicks met, the Celtics came away with the victory 105-101, but this is not the same Knicks team that went 3-7 over its first 10 games. This Knicks team seems to have figured out how to win, but in order to win this game it’s going to be crucial that they prevent Rajon Rondo from having the type of game he did last time. Rondo leads the NBA with 13.7 assists per game and is second in steals with 2.37 per game.

The Celtics appear to be deeper than the Knicks, with 10 player averaging more than 15 minutes per game, as opposed to just seven players for the Knicks. The toughest part for New York is the fact that they can’t focus on shutting down one player. Paul Pierce leads the Celtics with 18 points per game — the Knicks have two players averaging more — but the Celtics spread the ball around and don’t seem to have that one go-to-guy this season; anyone could step up on any given night to beat you.

The Heat present a similar problem — albeit slightly different. They have three players averaging 18 points or more per game — LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. We know that James or Wade can beat you single-handedly, but Bosh can too. Again, the Knicks can’t key on one player. The best thing for them might be convincing Wilson Chandler to take another one for the team in order to get one of those guys out of the game.

Both games will pit the Knicks’ league leading 108.52 points per game against the two teams tied for first in opponents points per game at 91. They’ll feature strength against strength matchups and while neither is likely to make a lot of difference to the visiting teams, both could be season changers for the Knicks.

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek

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