Boston Celtics vs. New York Knicks Prediction: Who Wins the Battle of the Beleaguered?

NBA expert Jonathan Macri is here with his prediction and picks for the Saturday night matchups between the Boston Celtics vs. New York Knicks.
Jonathan Macri |
Sat, December 18, 2:35 PM EST | 4 min read
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Boston Celtics vs. New York Knicks Prediction: Who Wins the Battle of the Beleaguered?

When: Saturday, December 18, 7:00 p.m. ET

Where to Watch: NBA TV

Spread: Celtics -5

Total: 210.5

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Celtics vs. Knicks Prediction

As the pandemic once again ramps up across the country and every state is again feeling the full force of its effects, the NBA has been anything but immune. The last several days have taken on the feel of the opening hours of free agency, except instead of players signing with new teams, there are reports of a new batch of names who have entered health and safety protocols. Needless to say, it makes figuring out which lines present potentially strong opportunities has been all the more challenging.

Nowhere is that truer than in Boston tonight, where the Knicks may not have as many players in protocols as some other teams, but as far as key rotation players go, they've been as hard hit as anyone. Obi Toppin, RJ Barrett, Immanuel Quickley, Kevin Knox, Quentin Grimes, and Deuce McBride have all been sidelined for the moment. Derrick Rose is potentially joining them, albeit not for COVID-related reasons, who left Thursday's game at halftime with a bum ankle. He is currently listed as questionable.

That means the Knicks are down to three healthy and available players who traditionally play positions one through four and have been in the rotation over the last ten games: Alec Burks, Evan Fournier, and Julius Randle. You can add Kemba Walker to the mix, who has been out of the rotation and hasn't seen a minute of court time since November 26. Besides them, the Knicks have three players who traditionally play center in Nerlens Noel, Mitchell Robinson and Taj Gibson, 15th man Wayne Seldon, and newly signed Tyler Hall. That's it. That's the squad.

Assuming Walker plays – and given their current predicament, it's hard to see how he won't – it's possible Seldon and Hall can play about 40 minutes between the two of them to give the other guys a rest. Rose's availability would also help immensely, although he's been wearing down of late. Taj Gibson also saw 16 minutes at the four on Thursday.

As for Boston, not only did they play last night in a 111-107 home loss to Golden State, the Celtics placed Al Horford, Grant Williams, Jabari Parker, Juancho Hernangomez, and Sam Hauser in protocols before the game. Then they lost Romeo Langford to a neck injury midway through. In addition, Dennis Schroder missed the game with a non-COVID illness.

Like New York, they're still left with all of their top players available in Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, plus key reserves Jason Richardson, Aaron Nesmith, Payton Prichard, and Robert Williams, and Enes Kanter in the middle. So depending on whether Rose plays for the Knicks, Boston would appear to be more whole than New York.

There's also the matter of how the Knicks starters have been playing, which isn't great. Most of the team's issues, especially over the last several weeks, can be boiled down to the play of Randle and Fournier. Before that, Walker was the target of much ire. If the Knicks hang around here, those three will have to pull out their best efforts of the season.

It would be fitting if Kemba did just that in his return to Boston, who shipped him out of town after last season. If there's such a thing as a storybook ending still in store for him, it would probably happen here.

The bet here is that Rose plays, and New York's starters take on a "now or never" mentality. Will it be enough? We'll find out tonight, but if there's a tiebreaker going into this one, it has to be the play of Tom Thibodeau's squad on the road all season long. They have the sixth-best margin of victory and the sixth-best margin against the spread away from MSG.

Take the points and go with the road team.

Celtics vs. Knicks Pick

Jonathan Macri
@JCMacriNBA

Dean of Knicks Film School, host: KFS Pod, co-host: Pick N Pod. There isn't much about Knicks basketball that Jonathan doesn't know and he's here to break down the big games each and every week.

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