Celtics vs. Knicks Preview: Home Underdog Has Value at MSG

Action Network contributor Kenny Ducey breaks down the betting value in the NBA matchup on Thursday between the Boston Celtics and New York Knicks.

Celtics vs. Knicks Odds

Celtics Odds -1.5
Knicks Odds +1.5
Over/Under 207
Time 7:30 p.m. ET
Odds via PointsBet. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

The Knicks have won four of six now and welcome the Celtics back to Madison Square Garden, where these two opened their campaigns months ago.

Much has changed since then, with both teams hitting significant slides, though New York appears to be on the upswing while Boston has continued to struggle. Is there any reason to believe this matchup won’t be a repeat of October 20? Let’s dig into this one.

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Celtics Still Searching For Offense

The Celtics are the latest team to almost entirely rid themselves of injury issues. They were without Jaylen Brown for a while and had a whole host of rotation players in the league’s health and safety protocols, but just Payton Pritchard remains there. Robert Williams, Aaron Nesmith, Romeo Langford and Jabari Parker were able to return on Wednesday for a 99-97 loss to the Spurs.

The one thing you can always count on with the Celtics, besides a painstakingly slow pace, is defense. Boston ranks seventh in that regard this season and has posted a defensive rating of 109.2 or better in seven of the last eight games.

Aside from that, it’s been pretty ugly.

The Celtics continue to have scoring issues and are now owners of a losing record. Despite the fact that Boston is a robust 10-8-1 against the spread at home this year, it is just 1-4 ATS in its last four games away from home.  Similarly, the Celtics have been an impressive 4-2-1 ATS on the second night of back-to-backs this year, but they’re just 2-2-1 in their last five.

There was a period in November where Boston appeared to be turning things around, but that seems far in the past.

Knicks Need Randle to Step Up

The Knicks have also healed for the most part, though they’re still without Derrick Rose and Kemba Walker for the time being. Nerlens Noel’s been questionable as he comes out of COVID protocols, though his absence hasn’t been felt a ton given the fact that the Knicks’ defense has stepped up in recent weeks without him and his contributions on offense are minimal. Still, he may be back for this game.

It’s also worth noting that the Knicks have gotten their white whale in Ryan Arcidiacono after their initial 10-day contract with the journeyman guard was voided thanks to some players coming out of the league’s health and safety protocols. Unfortunately, he’ll be out on Thursday night due to an ankle sprain.

Despite all his flaws and a memorably-bad performance in Detroit where the team managed to erase a huge double-digit deficit by benching him, the Knicks seem to go as Julius Randle goes. He’s unquestionably the go-to guy given his Usage Rate, which has neared 30% on the year, and the Knicks enjoyed an easy win over Indiana thanks to his 30 points on Tuesday.

The Celtics have lacked the ability to defend in the restricted area this year and the surrounding paint, ranking in the bottom seven of the league, which could open the door for another big night

Celtics-Knicks Pick

The Knicks rank second in defensive rating in the last 10 days, and have dialed it all the way up on that end with their best players coming back from injury and some better defenders earning more minutes.

The Celtics are similarly gifted defensively, but they’ve got a glaring weakness around the rim, which I see New York — a team heavily reliant on Randle that loves to throw the ball into the paint — exploiting.

The recent struggles should continue for Boston, and the Knicks should come away with another memorable home win against their division rival.

Pick: Knicks ML (+105)