New York Knicks Catching the Boston Celtics at the Right Time
Oct 15, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) goes up for a shot against Boston Celtics center Al Horford (42) during the first half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks couldn’t be traveling to Boston at a better time. Surprisingly poor defense has caused the Celtics to struggle.

The last time the New York Knicks went head-to-head with their division rival Boston Celtics was on March 4, 2016. They had lost 10 of 12 games and were still reeling from Derek Fisher’s firing, while the Celtics were in the middle of a franchise resurgence led by the heroic Brad Stevens.

A season later and both teams are shockingly in similar positions. They’re off to the same disappointing start (3-4), and horrible defense is the reason.

The Knicks are getting a struggling Celtics team. They’re getting a Celtics team they may be able to beat. So yeah, they lucked out.

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Boston’s defensive results have been shocking. Their 2015-16 squad finished fourth in defensive efficiency and fourth in turnover percentage.

Through seven games this season, they are ranked dead last in efficiency and 26th in TO%. That’s including the 25-point beatdown they took at the hands of the Washington Wizards on Wednesday.

Their offense has kept them afloat, led by All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas. Thomas is averaging 25.7 points, and 7.3 assists and the Celtics are third in offensive efficiency.

The Knicks bad defense has been well-documented. They weren’t practicing against the pick-and-roll enough which affected the way they guarded it during games. All the problems can be traced back to the offense that must not be named.

The team wasn’t communicating on switches and players were complaining, so Jeff Hornacek assigned Kurt Rambis to fix it. Well, Hornacek claims it was his call anyway, and not Phil Jackson’s.

There was skepticism surrounding the decision because Rambis’ Timberwolves teams were horrible on defense. One was 29th in opponent’s points per game; the other was 30th.

The Knicks looked good against a Brooklyn Nets team in Rambis’ debut as coordinator. Granted, the Nets didn’t have a point guard.

The Celtics do, and he’ll be a stiff test for the Knicks defense. Per Synergy, Thomas has run the pick-and-roll 47 times this season, shooting 52.9% landing him the 96.7th percentile of efficiency.

Among Boston’s struggles has been their ability to guard the three where they rank 29th in the league so the Knicks should feed Kristaps Porzingis early and often. KP is 50% (11-22) from downtown in the Knicks last three games.

In all likelihood, this is going to be a high-scoring game between two bitter rivals.

Chip Murphy covers the NBA for Elite Sports NY. You can find him on Twitter @ChipperMurphy.

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