Knicks (42-26) @ Celtics (36-33)
7PM/ET on TNT
Tonight, the Knicks are in Beantown facing a Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo-less Celtics team. Meanwhile, the Knicks still have their own injury woes to contend with. Word is, Tyson Chandler will likely miss tonight’s game despite participating in the team’s shootaround this morning. Yet, regardless of each team’s short-handedness, both need this win badly. The Celtics are on a four game skid, while the Knicks are looking to extend their win streak to five. Tonight’s game is particularly important for the Knicks because it kicks off another tough stretch. Seven of their next eight games are against playoff contenders. Over the next couple of weeks, the Knicks will face Boston twice, Miami, Oklahoma City, Atlanta, Milwaukee and Memphis.
Additionally, the Brooklyn Nets continue to nip at the heels of the Knicks and are just two games back. To gain further separation from the Nets, the Knicks must wrack up as many wins as possible. With Carmelo Anthony looking like his old self again and Kenyon Martin proving he’s more than an adequate replacement for Tyson Chandler, the Knicks have been impressive of late. In the Knicks’ four-game winning streak, Martin has averaged 14.3 points and 7.5 rebounds and has hit 75 percent of his shots. And of course, Martin’s defensive energy has positively infected the team. According to ESPN.com, “When Martin is on the floor, the Knicks are giving up 99.5 points per 100 possessions, which would rank fifth in the NBA. When he’s off the floor, they’re giving up 103.3, which would put them 17th.” This is the kind of habit building behavior the Knicks must exhibit as the playoffs approach.
Proven by the tight standings, the Eastern Conference playoff seedings are still up for grabs. With 14 games remaining on the Knicks calendar, only 6.5 games separate them from the No. 7 seed Celtics.
Just because two of the Celtics “Big 3” are injured, the Knicks cannot expect to steamroll the Celtics. Doc Rivers remains one of the best coaches in the league, and Paul Pierce has enough venom to destroy the Knicks. In his past 13 games against the Knicks, Pierce is averaging 27.8 points per game on 52.9 percent shooting. And he’s killed us beyond the arc, shooting 49 percent. Iman Shumpert’s perimeter defense will be key in slowing Pierce and the Celtics down, and allowing the Knicks to get solid open looks on the offensive end.
Per usual, it’ll feel like a playoff game, but when the final buzzer sounds, the Knicks will have done enough to keep their streak alive. Knicks win.
NY Knicks vs Memphis Grizzlies @ 730PM/ET, MSG