The New York Knicks finally broke out with one of their highest-scoring games of the season their last time out, taking out some frustration from a rough stretch. The Boston Celtics have also struggled, but they have started turning the corner and finally got above .500 this week. The two longtime Atlantic Division rivals will renew acquaintances and try to pay forward some positive momentum when the two meet at TD Garden Friday night. This is the second of four meetings this year, with the Knicks winning the first, 106-104, at home in the season-opener Christmas Day. Here is a preview and my NBA picks for the game.
New York Knicks (8-14) @ Boston Celtics (11-10), 8 p.m. ET
The Knicks got out to a 6-4 start to the season, but had lost nine of 10 since until breaking out with a 113-86 thumping of Detroit at home Tuesday night. This game will be the second of three in three nights, as New York hosted Chicago Thursday night, visits Boston Friday and returns home to face the Nets Saturday. The Knicks had their highest scoring regulation effort since pouring in 114 against Sacramento in December, burying the Pistons with 60-percent shooting from the floor and a 25-point night from leading scorer Carmelo Anthony in his first game back after missing a week with injuries. If ‘Melo is truly healthy, his presence changes the dynamic of the New York offense and may make the Knicks once again competitive like they were expected to be when the season began. The Knicks will need to improve on their 15 th -ranked scoring offense to make up for mediocre defense (16 th , 95.1 ppg) and rebounding (17 th , 41.9 pg).
The Celtics, meanwhile, seem to have found their groove. After a home loss to Phoenix, Boston has won six of seven, with the lone loss a one-point fall-from-ahead loss to Cleveland. Most recently, Boston buried the Raptors Wednesday night, 100-64, to open a five-game homestand. Interestingly, the Celtics have played this recent stretch without starting point guard Rajon Rondo (wrist), who may be back in the lineup Friday. In the eight games he has missed, the Celtics have shot better and played better defense. Whether that continues with Rondo back will be an interesting X-factor for this game. The C’s are second in the league in scoring defense (86.9 ppg), but are one of the worst units in scoring (90.3 ppg, 25 th ) and rebounding (38.6 pg, 29 th ).
The latest NBA odds show the Celtics favored by 6.5 points, while the total is set for 182. Anthony’s health and Rondo’s effectiveness if he plays will both play a role in this matchup. With New York playing three-in-three here, coach Mike D’Antoni will likely be forced to play deeper into his bench than his usual eight-man rotation, which could make his team very vulnerable. But like so many games in the NBA, this will be a battle of tempo. New York won the first meeting at home because it dictated tempo and got into triple-digits. It might not need to hit 100 to win, but New York might need to reach at least 96 points to pull off the win. Boston has gotten back to its tenacious defensive self lately as part of this current run, and until New York can prove that the Detroit game wasn’t just a fluke, it will be hard to go against the home team in this game. It is an intense rivalry and these two teams are pretty closely matched talent-wise, but the slight edge goes to the Celtics.
Final Score Prediction: Celtics 89, Knicks 84