On the NBA's traditional Christmas schedule, the opener pits two teams from the Atlantic Division against one another, as the New York Knicks take on the Boston Celtics. While New York has been a pleasant surprise for most of the season, Boston has been a slight disappointment. This game should balance out those feelings.

Celtics missing interior presence

The biggest issue for the Celtics heading into Christmas is their lack of an interior game, a weakness the Knicks will likely struggle to expose. Their best rebounder is their starting shooting guard, Avery Bradley, who is averaging 7.4 boards per game.

Al Horford was brought in this summer to solve that issue, but he enjoys camping out behind the arc and doesn't do much battling on the inside. In turn, Boston is averaging 42 rebounds per game, which is in the bottom five in the NBA.

The Christmas gift that keeps on giving for the Celtics, however, is point guard Isaiah Thomas. On Tuesday night, he reached a new career-high by scoring 44 points, including going a perfect 17-of-17 from the charity stripe; it was the most points scored by a Boston player in a decade. The primary point guard of the Knicks, Derrick Rose, is a middle-of-the-pack defender who sometimes loses hustle on that end of the floor -- Thomas could have a big game.

Knicks playing on borrowed luck

When the Knicks brought in veterans Rose, Joakim Noah, Brandon Jennings, and Courtney Lee over the summer, the team brass expected the team to be doing well by Christmas -- the fans didn't, though. The team-building strategy reeked of desperation and lack of aim, something the Celtics wouldn't do.

The Knicks will be above .500 when they play on Christmas Day, regardless of what happens on Thursday night against the Orlando Magic. Star Carmelo Anthony reminded people what was up on Tuesday night by stepping up in the win over the Indiana Pacers, just days before his former coach George Karl lambasted him in his new book.

But their recent road woes showcased the team's defensive shortcomings -- their defensive rating is in the bottom five of the NBA. They will be hosting the Celtics on Sunday, but that may not be enough to narrow the talent and coaching gap between the teams.

Christmas Prediction: Celtics 111, Knicks 96

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