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Thursday, January 24, 2013
W2W4: Celtics vs. Knicks (Game 42 of 82)

By Chris Forsberg

Elsa/Getty ImagesRajon Rondo and the Celtics will look to contain Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks on Thursday.
The Boston Celtics (20-21, 13-8 home) host the New York Knicks (25-14, 11-8 away) on Thursday night at TD Garden (8 p.m., TNT). Here's what to watch for:

* EYES ON MELO-KG II: Given the extracurriculars between Kevin Garnett and Carmelo Anthony in the first meeting in New York earlier this month, the two will be in the spotlight on Thursday. Both have downplayed any lingering animosity, particularly given that they will be teammates in the Eastern Conference frontcourt next month at the All-Star game in Houston and -- with their teams struggling -- neither can afford to get caught up in any individual drama. Expect the usual New York-Boston physicality, but it likely stays between the lines this time.

* SYNERGY SNAPSHOT: The Knicks are one of the league's most efficient offenses -- aided by their 3-point shooting -- as New York averages 0.976 points per play, which ranks fourth in the league, according to Synergy Sports data. In fact, the Knicks rank among the top 10 in 10 of the 11 play types logged by Synergy, including second in spot-up shooting (1.065 points per play) and sixth in both isolation and transition. Anthony has been nothing short of spectacular averaging 1.049 points per play and ranking in the 93rd percentile overall. Both Tyson Chandler (1.214 ppp) and Steve Novak (1.205 ppp) rank in the 99th percentile, offensively. At the other end of the floor, the Knicks sit 21st on defense while allowing 0.937 points per play and -- outside of Chandler (0.763 ppp, 86th percentile) -- don't have a strong individual defenders among their top rotation players.

* BOSTON NEEDS TO BE OFFENSIVE: The Celtics' offense the last four games has been downright anemic. We detailed it our game preview, but here's an excerpt highlighting the team's offensive woes: Boston is averaging a mere 0.816 points per play over the last four games and that number plunges to 0.753 points per play in halfcourt sets, according to Synergy data. By means of comparison, the Washington Wizards are 30th in the NBA averaging 0.859 points per play for the season, including a league-worst 0.829 points per play in halfcourt sets.

* GOTTA HAVE IT: The Celtics are navigating a season-worst four-game losing streak that's dropped them a game below .500 as they make the turn to the back nine of the 2012-13 season. Coach Doc Rivers has already threatened a roster shakeup if Boston doesn't play with more consistency and this is a key three-game stretch with games looming against a trio of East playoff foes (including a tough back-to-back on Friday in Atlanta before Ray Allen returns to Boston with the Heat on Sunday). How will the Celtics respond to a high level of competition while desperate to turn around their season?

* BUILDING OFF FIRST MEETING: Lingering questions from the first meeting: Can Jeff Green be as aggressive, especially when Steve Novak is on the floor? Will Boston withstand New York's 3-point barrages? Can a visit from the Knicks help Paul Pierce emerge from his shooting funk? After missing the first meeting while suspended, how does Rajon Rondo respond in the rematch?