Game 42: Knicks at Celtics preview


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The first time these two teams met this season, the Celtics had just begun to play good basketball. A 102-96 win over the Knicks on Jan. 7 was Boston’s third victory in a row, evening their record at 17-17. The Celtics would go on to win their next three games, with that stirring victory over the Knicks the postcard for a six-game winning streak.

A little more than two weeks later, the Celtics are in a tailspin. They’ve lost four straight games and haven’t looked while good doing so. Paul Pierce is shooting 32.4 percent from the field in his last five games. He was 3 of 15 against the Cavaliers Tuesday. Thursday night’s game represents the official start of the second half of the season for the Celtics, who currently occupy the 8th and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

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We haven’t even gotten to the Carmelo Anthony-Kevin Garnett feud yet, but the way the Celtics are playing that’s got to be the last thing on their minds. With a second-place team to cover, the New York Daily news is allowed to have a little fun (left) with what may or may not have been said by Garnett to Anthony on Jan. 7. Maybe having the Knicks in town will inspire the Celtics to play better basketball. Maybe tonight’s game can be the start of another winning streak.

Here are the details for tonight’s game:

Tip-off: 8 p.m.
Records: Celtics (20-21), Knicks (25-14)
Broadcast info:TNT, 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: Iman Shumpert
SF: James White
PF: Carmelo Anthony
C: Tyson Chandler

Story lines:
Offensive play: With the return of Avery Bradley, the Celtics’ renewed defensive focus has been a talking point. What’s just starting to be discussed is just how bad the Celtics have been on the other end of the court. Boston is 27th out of 30 NBA teams in offensive rating (points scored per 100 possessions). Pierce’s poor shooting hasn’t helped, but he’s not the only problem. The Celtics have not gotten the consistent scoring they were hoping for across the board.

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Paging Jeff Green: It’s hard to envision Pierce’s shooting improving much tonight while chasing Carmelo Anthony all over the court. On this night in particular, the offense will have to come from somewhere else. Jeff Green has a big task to stay with Anthony and provide some offense when he’s in the game.

Something to prove: Rajon Rondo didn’t play in the first meeting between these two teams, which to date is the Celtics’ defining victory of the season. Rondo needs to play his best for the Celtics to have a chance tonight.

@GlobeGaryDzen