The New York Knicks have clinched their first Atlantic Division title in 19 years.
They’ve won 13 straight games and are almost certain to end up with the second seed in the Eastern Conference. Carmelo Anthony could net his first NBA scoring title if he holds off Kevin Durant over the last five games of the regular season.
Everything looks rosy in The Garden, but are the Knicks realistic contenders for the title as we near the play-offs? New York are priced at 17.00 for the championship and 8.00 second favourites to win the East behind Miami, with the Heat’s status reflected in the odds of 4.25 for anyone but them to claim the conference crown.
Should they end up clashing with the defending champions for a place in the Finals, New York can take heart from winning the season series 3-1, including two victories by 20 points over LeBron James and Co. The Knicks look well-equipped to advance deep into the post-season if Tyson Chandler gets healthy, with a 34-13 record against their Eastern opponents, second only to – you’ve guessed it – Miami, who are 37-11 so far.
The one thing, however, New York have failed to accomplish so far is a win over Chicago, with the Bulls unwavering defence smothering Anthony and unsettling his team-mates. There’s nothing huge at stake for either team when they meet up on Thursday night but it seems likely that Luol Deng will sit out as a precaution, a factor that points to backing the Knicks to break the spell on the handicap of -4.0 points.
Golden State are back in the play-offs for the first time in six years but they still have an incentive to hold off Houston to finish up sixth in the Western Conference. That would likely see the Warriors avoid either San Antonio or Oklahoma City in the first round of the play-offs, but they’ll get a look at the Thunder tonight when last season’s finalists come to Oakland.
Both have won four or their last five games but it was Golden State who came out on top 104-99 when the Thunder last visited here in January. With OKC pushing to oust the Spurs from top seed, and with all their recent victories coming against play-off-bound teams, have a punt on Oklahoma City on the handicap of -4 at 1.91, going under the total points line of 204.5.
Best Bet: Take the New York Knicks -4 over the Chicago Bulls at 1.91
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