Boston Celtics at New York Knicks (-1.5, 200 o/u)
It’s still early in the season, but the Boston Celtics (19-18, 10-8 Away) and New York Knicks (19-20, 10-8 Home) are already playing a game with playoff implications, going head to head for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference tonight at MSG (7:30 PM Eastern).
Though the playoffs are still months away, both squads figure to be in the mix for the final slot and the head to head series could mean a lot late in the season.
Boston got off to a fast start this year, but are currently struggling to find their rhythm, losing three in a row and five of the last six. The team showed surprisingly strong defense in the early going, but that’s tapered of late and they’ve surrendered over 100 points in four of those five losses.
A poor fourth quarter doomed the Celts on Sunday. They were outscored by 32-22 in the final frame of their 101-98 home loss to the Grizzlies.
“We know that we gave this one away,” guard Avery Bradley told the team’s official website. “We can’t keep letting games slip away from us, but we need to stay positive and focus on the next game.”
The Knicks are moving in the other direction, winning four of the last five. Their last outing,a 100-88 win over the Bucks on Sunday, saw Carmelo Anthony score 24 points and add ten boards.
“Melo” (21.5 PPG) remains the focal point of the New York offense, but the team has found nice secondary scoring options in veteran guard Arron Afflalo (13.5 PPG) and rookie sensation Kristaps Porzingis (13.6 PPG). Their production has allowed Anthony to become more of a distributor and the Syracuse product is averaging a career-high 3.8 assists per game.
“I don’t think it’s new. I think I was always willing to pass the ball. But now I think it’s just a little bit more of an emphasis of not worrying about my scoring as much; doing everything else and then just letting the scoring come to me. So I don’t think it was a fact of me not being willing, or wanting to be willing to distribute the ball. It’s just a matter of me trying to not really focus on just scoring the basketball,” said Anthony to the New York Daily News.
Tonight’s tilt will be the second of the season between the teams. Back on December 27, Boston covered as 8.5-point home favorites (100-91) despite getting lit up by Porzingis for 28 points.
Despite the Knicks have the momentum at the moment, the Celtics are 8-3 ATS in their last 11 road games, and 3-1 ATS in their last four against the Knicks, overall. (In the O/U, the total has stayed UNDER in 13 of the last 18 between the teams.)
Pick: Celtics (+1.5).
(Photo credit: Keith Allison (Flickr: Carmelo Anthony) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped.)