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Game 34 preview: Celtics at Knicks

Posted by Gary Dzen, Boston.com Staff  January 7, 2013 11:26 AM

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The Celtics have played 33 games this season without facing the Knicks, and if you've followed only one of the two teams, you have a lot to catch up on.

The Knicks are first in the Atlantic Division and have been first in the Eastern Conference until recently, when Miami took over the top spot. The Celtics, meanwhile, are currently slotted in the 8th and final playoff spot in the conference. New York's rise and Boston's fall have both been major storylines in the young season.

The last team to win the Atlantic besides the Celtics was the Toronto Raptors, in 2006-07. The Knicks haven't won it in 19 years. So when Carmelo Anthony (above) says the Knicks "don't even think about" the Celtics, you can take it with a grain of salt. The Knicks badly want to win the division, and the Celtics are the team they need to keep down in order to do that.

Here are the details for Monday night's game:

Tip-off: 7:30 p.m.
Records: Celtics (16-17), Knicks (23-10)
Broadcast info:CSNNE (Mike Gorman and Tommy Heinsohn), WEEI/93.7 FM (Sean Grande and Cedric Maxwell)

Probable starters:

Celtics: PG: Rajon Rondo SG: Avery Bradley SF: Paul Pierce PF: Brandon Bass C: Kevin Garnett

Knicks: PG: Jason Kidd SG: Ronnie Brewer SF: Carmelo Anthony PF: Tyson Chandler C: Marcus Camby

Story lines:
Slowing 'Melo: You're not going to stop Carmelo Anthony, but slowing him down is priority No. 1 for Doc Rivers. One of the league's premier scorers, Anthony is averaging 29.3 points per game this season. I'm not sure Paul Pierce can continue to go one-on-one with Anthony without bringing more help than in the past, so defense on a string is the key to slowing Anthony. Off the bench, this is why Jeff Green is here. He needs to be able to match up with the Carmelos and Lebrons of the world.

Knicks sliding?: There's a lot of bravado coming out of New York, but the Knicks are 5-5 in their last 10 games. Is there a chink in their armor? New York's 3-point attempts have gone up by four per game since November, but the team's makes have actually gone down.

Force turnovers: The Celtics have forced 18 turnovers in consecutive games. They've benefited from the renewed commitment to defense by getting into their offense more quickly on the other end. People question the wisdom of pinning a team's improvement on one player, but Avery Bradley has the potential to improve both the offense and the defense.

@GlobeGaryDzen

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