Crispy’s Pre-Game Notebook: Knicks-Celtics

New York Knicks (3-4) 

  • The Knicks have gone from the best free-throw shooting team last year at 82 percent to 73 percent this season. The Knicks hope to clean that up as the season progresses; it can be the difference between winning and losing — especially on the road. Meanwhile, the Celtics are shooting nine fewer free throws a game this season.
  • Jeff Hornacek — a 90-percent free throw shooter in his 14-year NBA career — has been willing to work with players after practice on several shooting drills.
  • The naming of Kurt Rambis as defensive coordinator had a positive effect against the Brooklyn Nets. New York allowed only 28 percent shooting from the field in the second half.
  • Brandon Jennings had his best game as a Knick with 11 assists against Brooklyn, citing his competitive toughness as a product of his rookie year playing in Milwaukee with Kurt Thomas and Jerry Stackhouse. Those Bucks had a no-holds-barred approach where “you can’t show too much respect for the opponent.”
  • Willy Hernangomez made an impression after sitting for three straight games with 14 points in 14 minutes along with three blocks against the Nets. As far as Hornacek is concerned, he needs that every night from his bench: “To get our starters some rest, if our bench can deliver every night, we will be all right.”

Knicks Porzingis Celtics

Boston Celtics (3-4)  

  • The Celtics were the hot pick to challenge the Cleveland Cavaliers in the East, but they are off to a slow start for a number of reasons.
  • Prized free agent Al Horford is out with a concussion. He was averaging fewer points and rebounds than he did in Atlanta, but is averaging more assists. The center is averaging 4.7 assists this year compared to 3.2 last season.
  • Jae Crowder is still struggling with an ankle injury he suffered last spring. The Celtics’ defensive forward shot only 24 percent from three-point range in the playoffs after shooting 35 percent during the regular season.
  • The Celtics are 30th in rebounding without those two available. They are forcing five fewer turnovers and allowing 112 points per game, after finishing fifth overall in defensive efficiency last year. Brad Stevens says “it’s not for lack of effort, but more about missed assignments
    by some of the second unit, having to step in for Horford and Crowder.”
  • Avery Bradley is improving his offense, raising his scoring average from 15 points per game to 19.5 and doubling his assists to 4.5 per. He also had a 31-point, 11-rebound game versus the Charlotte Hornets on Oct. 29, joining Paul Pierce, Antoine Walker and Jeff Green as the only Celtics to make eight three-pointers and grab eight rebounds in a game.