Eastern Conference NBA Battle: Boston Celtics at New York Knicks

It’s do-or-die time for a number of NBA teams battling for the final seeds in the NBA playoffs ahead, and for tonight the New York Knicks (31-29, 20-11 home) will try to knock off a surging foe in the Boston Celtics (36-25, 15-16 away) in a classic match-up at Madison Square Garden with tip-off set for 8:00 PM ET. With Boston looking to clinch the Atlantic division with a victory tonight and a Philadelphia 76ers loss, and New York looking to create some breathing room in 7th place in the East, tonight’s showdown will be one that both teams will take with the utmost seriousness, in the final meeting of the 4-game season series between the two squads.

In the three games played to date between the two teams, Boston has the advantage with a 2-1 record thus far, but with all games decided by 4 or less points, there’s little question that once again tonight’s battle will be hotly-contested, and likely coming down to the wire once more. The two teams couldn’t be closer to form heading into this match-up at MSG, as Boston has gone 13-4 over the past 4 weeks of play, and New York has gone 13-5 since firing Mike D’Antoni and rolling with interim coach Mike Woodson. With a Knicks win at home tonight, they could even the season series with Boston, and also prevent them from clinching a 5th consecutive division title, albeit perhaps for just one more night. The Celtics, who struggled throughout the first half of the season, have seen their competition disappear in the second half as the Philadelphia Sixers have put in one of the worst performances in the second half in recent memory, but nonetheless they have continued to play excellent basketball, relying on their defense one night, and pouring on the points the next. Resting leading scorers Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett on Sunday after playing 3 straight games, as well as having Ray Allen sit out one more game to heal a lingering injury, Boston may look to put all their top starters back into the mix tonight, against a New York team who has also had to fight through injury concerns of their own.

For the Knicks, the mounting injuries could make tonight’s match-up a tough one, especially for Carmelo Anthony who has been the go-to player for the Knicks down the stretch. With Amare Stoudamire set to miss his 12th straight game with a back injury, and phenom Jeremy Lin out indefinitely with a knee problem, Carmelo Anthony has stepped back into his role as a leader and top scorer, averaging 31.7 points per game this month, including 42 in the loss to Miami on Sunday. A big concern for tonight however is the status of big man Tyson Chandler, who appeared to be in a lot of pain during the later stages of Sunday’s loss due to a knee injury. If Chandler is unable to go at full strength tonight (reports do say he’ll be active at least), New York will find themselves at a big disadvantage against Boston, which has been able to rest their star veteran players. Any which way though, for the Knicks to find a way past the surging Boston Celtics, who have won 7 of their last 10 and 2 straight, they’ll have to get more scoring output from their role players, and also do a better job on defense, which has been an increasingly inconsistent part of New York’s game lately.

Boston on the other hand has been one of the better teams in the league down the home stretch, getting stand-up leadership from Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo, the latter of whom has had 22 straight games with double-digit assists and has averaged nearly 14 assists per game against the Knicks this season. Rondo is a big key once again for Boston, as he comes into this match-up off a solid 20 points and 16 assists in a win over Charlotte, and had a triple-double in the 115-111 win against New York back on March 4th. With Amare Stoudamire out and Tyson Chandler likely to not be at 100 percent, Rondo’s game could be expanded even further, as he’ll be able to drive inside the lanes with more ease, and open up the passing game to outside shooters including Pierce and possibly Ray Allen. If Allen goes tonight, he’ll be a huge asset for the Celtics, as he’s shooting over 50 percent on the year from 3-point range against the Knicks (24-for-39). Pierce as well has been solid against New York, scoring north of 30 points in each of the past two match-ups. Also, power forward Brandon Bass has been stepping his game up, averaging 16.6 points and 8.6 rebounds in the past 5 games played. His physical presence inside could also be a huge boost for the Celtics, especially on the glass as Boston hasn’t been particularly strong in the rebounding game this season (ranking 29th in the NBA with 39.2 boards per game). Add in increasingly strong performances from Avery Bradley, who has filled in admirably for Ray Allen by averaging 14.6 points/game and hitting 63.6 percent of his 3-pointers in the past 5 games, and you’ve got a confident, deep Boston team that has been able to rest its key players when needed and still pull out wins as bench players step up.

For New York to put some breathing room between them and the Philadelphia 76ers tonight (who sit in 8th position, just 2 games ahead of Milwaukee in 9th), they’ll have to find a way to get more contributions from their own supporting cast, which starts with getting another solid game out of J.R. Smith, who has been solid lately averaging 16.2 points per game over the past two weeks. Consistently scoring more than 14 points per game in his last 5 starts, it will be essential for the Knicks to get a good game out of Smith, so as to take some of the scoring pressure off Carmelo Anthony. A bounce back game from Iman Shumpert certainly wouldn’t hurt either, as despite putting in three solid efforts last week (averaging 13 points/game) he’s been a no-show in the past two outings, scoring just 3 points in a win over Washington and a lost against Miami. Shumpert, Smith and Anthony comprise a long and strong back court for New York, which can be very effective at driving into the lanes against smaller teams like Boston, but without solid efforts from each one of these three players, Boston’s smothering defense will be able to adapt to hinder the most effective shooter (likely Carmelo Anthony) and keep New York’s scoring output to a minimum. However, if New York can be effective around the perimeter tonight, and use their agility and speed to overcome Kevin Garnett and Brandon Bass inside the lanes, the Knicks will find themselves in a good position to be on the winning side of the scoring line in tonight’s game.

Betting Lines for the New York Knicks vs. Boston Celtics at Betonline Sportsbook

For the money line on tonight’s classic match-up at Betonline Sportsbook, the Boston Celtics enter as slight underdogs, getting +130 odds to win while New York has the advantage at -150 odds. This may be taking into consideration the possible absence of Ray Allen, as well as Boston’s less-than-stellar 15-16 road record, however with the way the Celtics have been playing down the stretch, it’s a great opportunity for underdog pickers to go with a proven winner in recent times by backing the Celtics tonight. New York is 20-11 straight up at home, and has won 3 of the last 4 at MSG, however Boston has won 4 of their last 5 games on the road.

Against the spread, New York has been big at home, going 19-12 ATS this season while Boston is 15-16 ATS, to match their record overall. That seems to suggest that with a victory, Boston will find a way to cover the +3 points against the spread, and so too will New York cover the -3 points if they pull out a victory at home. With the series having just one game go over 4 points thus far, but key absences lingering for both sides, chances look high that we’ll see a wider gap in the final score tonight, as one of these two teams is bound to break the trend in this series to date.

On the over/under, a low 183 points is the mark to aim for. The series has been inconsistent on the final points total, with the first game accumulating 210 points, the second just 180, and the third 216 (in overtime). With Boston rested and New York lacking some inside presence, the scoring could once again be pushed over the total points margin, especially if New York can once again find a hot hand at home. While Boston’s defense usually outplays their offense, we’ve seen a number of Celtics match-ups where both teams score in triple digits, leading to a good case for choosing the over wager on total points tonight.

Expect a fantastic showdown between these two Eastern Conference rivals, and great options for betting on sports at Betonline Sportsbook today. Take some time to dig up as much statistical and analytical information on this final game between the Celtics and Knicks tonight, as it’s sure to be a hotly-contested game that both teams want to win ahead of the NBA playoffs to come.

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