Much like they did last season, the Boston Celtics have gotten off to a red-hot start to the season. After sweeping a back-to-back on Friday and Saturday, the Celtics enter their matchup tonight with the Knicks boasting a 7-2 record, as they’ll be looking to remain perfect in their home arena. Between their play at home and the fact that they are catching the Knicks on the back half of a back-to-back, I’ll break down why I’ll be targeting a first-half bet for this matchup.
Through their first six games of the season, the New York Knicks only managed to score more than 109 points in one of their games. That led to their offensive rating being ranked 29th in the league. However, over their last three games, that has been far from the situation, as they’ve scored 111 or more points in all three games, and in that span, they rank 2nd in offensive efficiency rating at (127.5).
New York has shot the ball drastically better over their recent three-game winning streak, in large part thanks to the defensive shortcomings of their opponents. Over the season's first six games, the Knicks ranked dead last in true shooting percentage at 50.2%, but over their last three games, they’ve managed a 59.8% true shooting percentage.
While their offensive numbers have fluctuated, the Knicks' defense has remained the strength of this team from the first game of the season through tonight. With a defensive rating of 104.7, New York ranks second in the league, which sets up an intriguing matchup tonight with a Celtics team that is 4th in offensive rating (118.5).
By dominating both games of the back-to-back over the weekend, Boston is now 4th in effective field goal percentage and 5th in overall shooting efficiency. The offensive potential of this team is through the roof, but it’s the Celtics' well-roundedness that makes them a true threat.
Unlike the Knicks, who have had one clear strength all season, the Celtics have flexed their muscle on both ends of the court, ranking one spot behind the Knicks in defensive rating at 104.9. It’s been challenging for opponents to stick with the Boston offense since their defense is holding teams to a 50.4% effective field goal percentage, ranking them 2nd in that category.
The Celtics 1H spread is currently set at (-5), and I’ll be backing them to continue their high level of play at home. Boston is 7-1-1 ATS in the first half this season, and they rank 1st in average points scored in the first quarter (32.9) while sitting atop the league in 1H NET rating.
Boston ranks in the top ten in average points allowed for both the first and second quarters while holding opponents to a 43.2% first-half field goal percentage. That defensive prowess could be a real problem for a Knicks team that has failed to break 90 points in the two back ends of back-to-backs they’ve played this season. New York has shot 19% or worse from three in those games, and across the board, in the first half, they rank 14th in NET rating.
For a team known for their defense this season, the Knicks still rank 19th in opponent field goal percentage and 18th in opponent three-point percentage in the first half. The second half has been when the Knicks' defense usually turns it on, so between the fact that they are 29th in first-quarter points per game and have the rest disadvantage, I don’t see them keeping pace with the Celtics early in this matchup.
Boston Celtics 1H (-5)(-110) on Caesars Sportsbook