Few Boston versus New York sports match-ups have carried as little releveance as Wednesday night’s tilt in Madison Square Garden. Neither the Boston Celtics or New York Knicks have been able to stay competitive, even in the pathetic Eastern conference. Worse for the fan bases is that even recent attempts to “tank” have not been successful.
When it became clear that the Celtics weren’t going to be competitive enough to keep Rajon Rondo past the 2014-15 season, GM Danny Ainge made the decision to ship his team’s star to the Dallas Mavericks, essentially signalling the start of a full re-building project. Jeff Green was soon sent off to Memphis and just about every tradable asset has been exchanged for whatever draft picks that Ainge can get his hands on.
Ainge probably didn’t expect the pieces left in Boston to win three of their first five games on a Western conference road swing pulling to within two games of a playoff berth. Three straight losses has the Celtics back on track in their pursuit of a top five draft pick. Even the ever resourceful Brad Stevens has struggled to manipulate his lineup to generate offense over the past week. It doesn’t help that Boston’s inside defense is easily one of the league’s weakest.
The start of the year was even worse for the Knicks and their fire sale involved moving Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith and waiving Samuel Dalembert. They’ve won five of their past seven games including victories over playoff competitors New Orleans and Oklahoma City. They actually carry a four-game home winning streak into this game after going 3-17 through the first half of the season.
The formula for success has of course run through Carmelo Anthony. The team’s superstar has struggled with injuries all season and is expected to shut it down early this year in order to have surgery. However, he’s found some scoring rhythm in recent weeks scoring at least 25 points in the last six games in which he has been able to play significant minutes.
Anthony is getting support from a front court of Jason Smith and Lou Amundson that has come together to provide defensive and rebounding support, and a backcourt of Jose Calderon and Langston Galloway that has come together offensively. The Knicks have actually resembled a basketball team since Anthony’s return from injury confirming the suspicion that they were never quite as bad as they looked in November and December.
This might be one of the few games where the desire to win outweighs the desire to lose for these respective fan bases. The x-factor in this game is Anthony’s knee. If it gets agitated and he is sidelined for all, or part of the game, then the Knicks become a lot more defendable. However, if Anthony is in the lineup, then it is very hard to see who the Celtics have to try and stop the 30-year old from doing just about anything that he wants to do.
Betting Preview: Boston (+1) vs. New York
It isn’t an easy game to pick and the oddsmakers are reflecting that by giving even the “hot” Knicks just a single point advantage on home court. Stevens uses a lot of his players in a lot of different combinations and the consequence of that is that the Celtics can be quite unpredictable getting contributions from a number of different sources.
More predictable is Boston’s defense and if Melo is able to play 30-35 minutes, he should be the difference between the East coast’s two tanking franchises.
The Pick: New York (-1) (www.betonline.ag)
Writer’s Record Against The Spread: 21-16