AP Photo/Kathy Willens
Kevin Garnett and Tyson Chandler will renew acquaintances Monday at Madison Square Garden.The Boston Celtics (16-17, 6-11 away) visit the New York Knicks (23-10, 13-3 home) on Monday night at Madison Square Garden (7:30 p.m., CSN). Here's what to watch for:
* MEASURING-STICK GAME: Celtics coach Doc Rivers typically scoffs at the notion of a measuring-stick game, but the first meeting of the season between Boston and New York is a chance for both sides to gauge where they are at nearing the midpoint of the season. The Knicks have been fantastic out of the gates of the 2012-13 campaign and own a seven-game lead in the Atlantic Division. That won't faze a Boston squad that always seems to save some of its most inspired play for visits to MSG. The Celtics are starting to play a more inspired brand of basketball, but the Knicks will give Boston a better idea of the progress its made since its late-December stumbles.
* SYNERGY SNAPSHOT: The Knicks are playing like an elite offense, ranking fourth in the league averaging a robust 0.989 points per play, according to Synergy Sports data. New York suffers virtually no drop-off when forced into a halfcourt set (ranking second in the league at 0.965 ppp). The Knicks boast four of the league's most efficient scorers in Carmelo Anthony (1.089 ppp, 96th percentile), Tyson Chandler (1.246 ppp, 100th), Jason Kidd (1.067 ppp, 94th) and Steve Novak (1.192 ppp, 99th). Bottom line: The Knicks are going to put points on the board and Boston has to limit the damage. Defensively, New York has regressed from last season, dropping from sixth in opponent points per play to 23rd (0.938 ppp). Chandler simply can't do it alone and opponents have exploited JR Smith (0.97 ppp, 17th percentile) and Kidd (0.945 ppp, 22nd) in particular.
* OFFENSE VS. DEFENSE: The Celtics' defense has made great strides over the last three games with the return of Avery Bradley. The question is whether Boston can maintain its level of play against a top-tier offense. For more on that -- and a longer preview of Monday's game -- hop HERE.