GAME PREVIEW (via STATS LLC)
While some suspected Carmelo Anthony was going to shut it down with a nagging knee injury early last month, he's playing some of his best basketball of the season right now.
Anthony tries to stay hot as the New York Knicks go for a fifth consecutive home win Tuesday night against the struggling Boston Celtics.
Anthony has been battling left knee soreness for much of the season, and it's looking like he'll eventually require surgery to get back to 100 percent. However, the eight-time All-Star isn't ready to throw in the towel just yet.
"My focus is on tomorrow and Boston here on Tuesday," he said following Sunday's 92-80 win over the Lakers. "We're taking it one day at a time."
Anthony has played in seven of the last eight games since missing six with the ailment, leading New York (10-38) to a 5-2 record in those contests. Anthony scored 18 of his 31 in the third quarter against Los Angeles -- his second 31-point effort in three games.
"I think that's what's getting us over the top," he said. "Guys are playing hard and we're feeding off that energy -- defensively, offensively. We're having some fun right now playing basketball."
New York has won four in a row at Madison Square Garden after opening 3-17 there. The Knicks finally appear to have settled on a regular group of starters that includes Anthony, Jose Calderon, Langston Galloway, Louis Amundson and Jason Smith.
"Any time you can have some consistency from that standpoint, you start to learn each other, you start to get comfortable with guys out there," said Anthony, averaging 28.8 points over his last eight home games. "You start to learn and figure out what each person can do, when they can do it, how they can do it."
The Celtics (16-30) rank in the middle of the pack with 100.9 points per game, but they've averaged 86.7 during a three-game losing streak. Boston had scored at least 84 points in each of the first 45 games before falling 83-75 to Miami on Sunday.
TWO THINGS TO WATCH (via Chris Forsberg)
• Pick a direction: If the Celtics truly desire to make a playoff push, this week will likely dictate if that happens. Boston's next four games are against teams with a combined 0.337 winning percentage, including Eastern Conference basement dwellers in the Knicks and 76ers. If Boston can't get some momentum this week, then its lottery fate is likely sealed and the team ought to put a heavier focus on developing young talent moving forward (the front office could assure that by sending out veteran bodies before the deadline regardless of how Boston fares this week).
• Thumbs up? Both of Boston's starting guards are dealing with thumb injuries in Evan Turner and Avery Bradley. Turned played sparingly Sunday and rookie Marcus Smart ran with the first unit in the second half; Bradley played through what he termed a fracture in the thumb on his non-shooting hand.