Celtics vs. Knicks: All Signs Point to Boston

Action Network contributor Kenny Ducey previews Monday's NBA game between the Boston Celtics and the New York Knicks, including a betting prediction.

Celtics vs. Knicks Odds

Celtics Odds -2
Knicks Odds +2
Over/Under 223.5
Time 7:30 p.m. ET
TV NBA League Pass
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

Two playoff-bound teams in the Eastern Conference will clash Monday night in what promises to be an epic game at Madison Square Garden.

After splitting the first two games of the season series, the Celtics will look to get a win over the Knicks in a game where they’ll be a bit shorthanded. Both teams enter in the midst of winning stretches, so could an absence prove to be the difference

Let’s break down this matchup in our Celtics vs. Knicks preview.

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Boston Celtics

The absence I referenced earlier is a rather significant one. Jaylen Brown will not play in this game due to personal reasons, meaning Boston will need to find a way to make up some serious production. Brown is averaging 26.5 points per game this season and had just returned from a four-game absence to score 56 points across two wins, shooting 55.6% from 3.

The good news is that the Celtics are 9-2 straight up and 10-1 against the spread in games they’ve had to play without Brown. The game they didn’t cover came on the road in Miami, where Boston was spotted 2.5 points and lost by three. So, it’s reasonable to expect the Celtics’ production to remain high.

This means we’ll presumably see more of Derrick White, who is dealing with an ankle issue, but listed as probable. White has averaged 17.5 points in 25.2 minutes since the break. He’s shooting 61.9% from the field, 55.6% from 3 and has been one of the most important players in Joe Mazzulla’s rotation. While he’s not an All-Star, this could wind up working out for the Celtics, who will have no excuse but to leave White out on the floor.

The Celtics are 34-27 against the spread this year, but if there’s one place to get them it’s on the road. Boston is just 16-14 ATS as the away team and 13-13 ATS as the road favorite.

New York Knicks

The Knicks have now won five in a row and have covered in their past four victories. In the past couple of months, they’ve turned their playoff dreams into a near-certainty. After wins over some middling teams like the Jazz, Nets, Wizards and Hornets, this will be one of their biggest tests in the past few weeks.

If there’s one thing that will inspire some confidence here, it’s the fact that the Knicks went into Boston back on January 26th and took down one of the most imposing teams in the league as 8.5-point underdogs. The Celtics did have Brown in that game and he scored 22 points. It was Julius Randle who led the way with 37, an impressive feat given it came against one of the strongest interior defenses in the NBA.

The positive here for the Knicks is that they really don’t take a lot of shots inside of 10 feet. In fact, they are in the bottom half of the league in that category, taking one just 43.3% of the time, and they’re 10th in 3-point frequency. The bad news is that the Celtics have been pretty good there as well, allowing 35.3% shooting on guarded looks.

Celtics-Knicks Pick

Over the past 10 games, the Celtics defense has grown stronger. They’ve reduced that 35.3% mark against them from 3 to 33.8%. For the season, they’re at 61.3% against looks inside of 10 feet, but are at 60.2% over the past 10 games.

It certainly doesn’t feel like the Celtics are a great bet heading into a hostile environment, where they’ll take on one of the hottest teams in the NBA without their second-best player. However, all the numbers point to Boston.

The Celtics’ strong record without Brown gives me plenty of confidence they will pull this one out, as does the fact that they’ve been nails in the paint. Randle surely can’t replicate the 37-point outing he had last time against Boston, particularly with the way this frontcourt is playing.

As an added bonus, it was clear the Celtics were missing White late in the fourth quarter of their dramatic win over the Sixers, and without Brown there should be no good reason for White to be on the bench for very long in this game.