What do you make of the recent Thunder win over the Clippers which edged them even further ahead in the race for the NBA’s best record and home court advantage throughout the playoffs? It seems an obvious answer until accounting for the fact that the Clippers were playing without point guard and MVP candidate Chris Paul. The record counts in the standings, but for true evaluation purposes of either team, I give it about as much credence as a preseason game in October.
A game I would lend some credence to is the last outing (hell, the last TWO) by the Boston Celtics. They got clocked on their home floor by the Cleveland Cavaliers and the “Kyrie Irving is an All-Star” chorus got even louder after he dismantled All-Star starter and supposed defensive nightmare Rajon Rondo to the tune of 40 points. This performance for the Celtics was right on the heels of a 15-point loss to Detroit and now has them mired in a four game losing streak and under the .500 mark at the halfway point of the season.
Can Boston rebound? Is it really possible we might be looking at a Playoffs without Boston AND the Lakers? Let’s dig into some numbers for tonight’s marquee matchup, New York at Boston.
New York Knicks -1.5 at Boston Celtics (Total: 188)
Both teams have said that last game’s incident between ‘Melo and Garnett (which eventually led to Carmelo Anthony following Garnett to the bus after the game ‘allegedly’ looking for a fight) is squashed and behind them. Instead, it is simply a game about two struggling teams looking to get back on track.
I don’t buy it.
If you think there isn’t going to be some extra emotion and intensity tonight, you are crazy. And a little extra fuel might be good for both teams. Boston is in a terrible funk, losing four games in a row and only one of the to a playoff teams, while New York has looked shaky with Amar’e, dropping four of six, including home losses to teams they are jostling with for playoff position, Brooklyn and Chicago. And of course, they also lost two weeks ago to the Celtics with Melo going 3 of 17 from the floor and trying to fight KG….
Anthony is going to have to overcome his shooting struggles if they want to grab this win on the road. Yes, Boston is struggling, but they seem to have a way of pulling it together against New York. A big catalyst for that spark is Rajon Rondo. He was suspended for the last game against New York, but is averaging 19.1 points and a crazy 13.4 assists against the Knicks in his last seven games against them. Keep in mind that Felton is still out with an injury (which is more the cause for their struggles that the more-publicized addition of Amar’e). That leaves quite a handful to be handled by Jason Kidd and JR Smith. I like Rondo to have yet another big game against the Knicks.
In general, if I can get points and home court advantage in an emotional and relatively evenly-matched (talent wise) game, I like it. That is the case tonight. Boston is only getting 1.5, but I like them to have a strong bounce back game and continue to frustrate Carmelo and New York.
Free Pick: Boston Celtics +1.5