It’s Knicks Opening Night, and it’s a big one to kick off the 2023-24 season. The rival Boston Celtics visit Madison Square Garden in a clash between two Eastern Conference contenders.
Of course, both teams are chomping at the bit to start the year with a big win. The Knicks are running it back and ready to build off of last year’s trip to the East Semifinals, where they lost to the Miami Heat. Boston, meanwhile, is hoping coach Joe Mazzula learned something after he was outclassed by Heat lifer Erik Spoelstra.
Now, add new acquisitions and national television, and it’s suddenly not just another basketball game. It’s a full-blown event at the world’s most famous arena.
Time: Wednesday, Oct. 25, 7:00 p.m. ET
Betting Line: Knicks +3.5, Over/Under 223.5, via DraftKings
Key Storyline: Can the Knicks beat the Celtics again? You’d never know it, but the Knicks have actually played their rivals from up I-95 quite well as of late. New York won last year’s regular season series over Boston, 3-1, including both road games at TD Garden. In fact, the Knicks have won two of their last three season series against the Celtics!
They’ll look for another win over the Celts almost a year to the day of the infamous “Bing-Bong” game. A reloaded Boston team will have its hands full in front of a rowdy MSG crowd.
Key Matchup: Jalen Brunson vs. Jrue Holiday. Jalen Brunson is the heartbeat of the Knicks’ offense, so great a leader that the team’s biggest win over Boston—a double-OT thriller in Boston in March—happened while he sat out with an injury! He still averaged 22.1 points and 6.7 assists in the three games he did play and shot 48.1% against Boston’s tough defense.
And speaking of defense, Brunson could have his hands full with new Celtics floor general Jrue Holiday. He’s in Beantown via Portland after being moved there in the Damian Lillard trade. The Celtics expect the 33-year-old veteran to score, dish, defend, and everything in between. He’s basically a more complete Marcus Smart, and Boston will lean on his experience to slow the hungry Knicks.
X-Factor: Julius Randle. Brunson may be the Knicks’ heartbeat, but Randle is the team’s motor. We saw it last season when he vanished in the playoffs. Be it his injured ankle or another reason, we all saw it. When Julius Randle slows down, so do the New York Knicks.
But the good news is Randle seems motivated and in even better shape this year. He posted a career-best 25.1 points per game last season and was even better against Boston. Randle averaged nearly 40 minutes over those four games and posted 30 points and 8.5 rebounds. It’s as though he knew they were rivalry games that needed something extra.
And on Opening Night, the Knicks need Randle to give that something extra and then some.
Celtics predicted starters: Jrue Holiday (PG), Derrick White (SG), Jaylen Brown (SF), Jayson Tatum (PF), Kristaps Porzingis (C)
Knicks predicted starters: Jalen Brunson (PG), Quentin Grimes (SG), RJ Barrett (SF), Julius Randle (PF), Mitchell Robinson (C)
Prediction: This game is going to be close, particularly because trading Obi Toppin to the Pacers left New York without much size off the bench. Boston, meanwhile, added 7-foot-3 former Knick Kristaps Porzingis, whose talent makes up for losing Robert Williams in the Holiday deal. He could make it tough for the Knicks to score in the paint, a key part of coach Tom Thibodeau’s physical style.
But that’s just it. The Celtics, though talented, clearly struggled against that very system last season. Thibodeau is also more experienced than Mazzula, whose team was down 3-0 in the East Finals before he somehow rallied them to Game 7. It’ll be a tough Opening Night battle, but the Knicks squeak by in this one.
New York Knicks beat Boston Celtics, 117-112 in OT.