The New York Knicks aren’t just playing for the second seed in the Eastern Conference on Sunday. The chance of a much-needed rest ahead of the NBA play-offs is also at stake.
With victory over the Indiana Pacers at Madison Square Garden, the Knicks would lock up second place behind Miami with three games remaining – and book a first round match-up with the Boston Celtics. However, a win for the visitors would give them a small shred of hope of catching up.
These two could meet again in the post-season if both progress into the East’s semi-finals and the Pacers are a foe that the Knicks would not relish. Indiana won their two home meetings with New York earlier this season and even though they lost on their last trip to the Big Apple, their smothering defence forced their hosts to shoot just 36.7 per cent.
However, New York come in with 14 wins from their last 15 and Carmelo Anthony retains a small edge over Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant in the race for the scoring title. Indiana have won only one of their last four and although they have the potential to limit the Knicks scoring – and keep the total points below the line of 192.5 – home advantage should see the men from Manhattan cover the handicap of -3.5 points and book a date with the Celtics.
There’s still plenty at stake for Houston with three games to go. They have a chance to move up to sixth seed in the Western Conference, and avoid San Antonio or OKC in the opening round - two teams who would likely beat the Rockets.
To overtake Golden State, Houston will likely have to win all their remaining games, starting tonight when they have their final home tie of the regular season against Sacramento. The Kings have been truly awful defensively this year, giving up a league-worst 104.8 points per game - an average which has steadily grown since their elimination from the play-offs.
The Rockets are scoring an average of 105.8 per game (second overall) but have allowed a creditable 98 points or less in three of their last four. While they won 112-102 in Sacramento 11 days ago, take a punt on Houston on the handicap of -10.5 at 1.91.
Best bet: Take New York over Indiana on the handicap at 1.91