The Boston Celtics (44-17, 33-27-1 ATS) head to Manhattan to take on the New York Knicks (35-27, 34-27-1 ATS). The Celtics are coming off a wild win in Philadelphia thanks to the late-game heroics of Jayson Tatum and the late-release on a full-court heave from Joel Embiid, and are 2-0 since the All-Star break. The Knicks are on fire as well, winning their last five and coming off a 22-point drubbing of the New Orleans Pelicans. The season series between Boston and New York is a 1-1 split. New York took the most recent game on January 26th in overtime. According to online sportsbook betonline.ag, the Celtics are 2.5-point favorites.
Point Spread: Boston Celtics -2.5
O/U: 224 points
ML: Celtics -140, Knicks +120
Jaylen Brown (personal) will miss tonight’s matchup. It’s unclear if he will also miss Wednesday’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Derrick White (ankle) is listed as probable, and should be good to go. If White sits, this will be his first game missed all year.
For the Knicks, only Evan Fournier (illness) is questionable. New York will have their full rotation healthy tonight.
Celtics Projected Starters
PG: Marcus Smart
SG: Derrick White
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Al Horford
C: Robert Williams III
Knicks Projected Starters
PG: Jalen Brunson
SG: Quentin Grimes
SF: RJ Barrett
PF: Julius Randle
C: Mitchell Robinson
Boston Celtics Overview
The first two games out of the break have been nail-biters to say the least, but the team has shown poise in the clutch, even on nights where Jayson Tatum isn’t at his best. If the Celtics find themselves in another close game, this favors them, as the Knicks are one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA in clutch situations, posting a defensive rating of 118.6. New York closed the last game against Boston in overtime, but the C’s erased a sizable deficit in the final minutes of regulation with ease, and nearly put the game away at the buzzer.
The absence of Jaylen Brown will mean an increased role once again for Derrick White, who showed out while Marcus Smart was injured. He’s averaging 22.6 points and 8.2 assists in his last five games as both a starter and a bench player. His stellar output on both ends of the floor has given the Celtics very reliable depth, and should instill confidence even with Jaylen Brown out.
New York Knicks Overview
The Knicks have hit their stride, and they’re winning on the backs of Julius Randle and Jalen Brunson. The duo of crafty scorers has been a force all season long, ranking third in combined points, barely trailing Tatum and Brown and the new pairing of Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving. Last month against Boston, they both had huge games, with Randle going for 37 and Brunson going for 29. The return of Marcus Smart, who missed that game, may pose problems for Brunson, but the Celtics will still need to find a way to force Randle into putting the ball on the floor and turning it over.
Another reason the Knicks have been cruising is their trade deadline acquisition Josh Hart. Hart has been giving the team 14.1 points on 61% from the field in 26.2 minutes. Along with his constant motor, he provides the ability to reliably score off the bench, and gives Tom Thibodeau lineup flexibility late in games. New York is 5-0 since he joined the team, and he will continue to be a player to watch tonight.
Just like Saturday’s matchup against the 76ers, this game should come down to the wire. It’s hard going against either team right now, with both Boston and New York rolling since the start of February. It’s a slight upset pick, but New York is playing their best basketball of the season. In the absence of Jaylen Brown, I think they can take down the top dogs in the East once again tonight.