NBA schedule: Knicks fight for 2nd spot vs. Celtics, Mavs scrap for playoffs vs. Clippers

Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

The Knicks and Celtics go back a ways, while the Dallas Mavericks look to continue a surprising fight for the eighth seed with a big name on the schedule in the Clippers.

There are only three games Tuesday night in the NBA, but two of them are national features as the league temporarily rearranges its general weekly schedule to allow for the NCAA Tournament. None are super-amazing matchups, but if we've learned anything from games between the Knicks and Celtics over the past few years, that matchup should be a pretty good one.

Here's a look at Tuesday night's schedule:

7 p.m. New York Knicks (42-26) vs. Boston Celtics (36-33)

Right now, these two teams are headed in different directions, but if past matchups are to be considered, this should be a nail-biter. These two Atlantic Division rivals have a way of going at each other, regardless of what's at stake, and their two games this season have been like that -- one featured Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Garnett getting in each other's faces in a Boston win over, um, cereal, and the other was a slim three-point win for New York in a game with 17 lead changes.

The Knicks have responded well to a brutal West Coast trip where they lost Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler -- and four of five games, all by double digits -- having won four in a row. Anthony is back in the fold after a balky knee, and with the team's big man depth completely slashed -- in addition to Chandler and Amar'e Stoudemire, the team is missing Rasheed Wallace and Kurt Thomas, likely for the rest of the year, and Marcus Camby has been unable to make more than brief appearances -- Kenyon Martin has stepped up. The first overall pick from 1999 has displayed shades of his formerly dominant self, putting up 19 and 18 in the team's last two games against the Toronto Raptors after spending most of the year on the free agent market.

Meanwhile, missing Rajon Rondo might have finally caught up to the C's, who are now without Garnett as well. They've lost four straight, although none have been by more than 10 points. They nearly snapped the Heat's huge win streak before a 17-point comeback by Miami led to a two-point victory, then lost to the Hornets on an Anthony Davis tip-in. If history is any indicator, Paul Pierce and Anthony will nag at each other until this is interesting.

The Knicks can tie up the Pacers for the second spot with a win. If they hang on to that, they'll likely play -- wait for it -- the Celtics.

TV: TNT

7:30 p.m., Minnesota Timberwolves (24-44) vs. Detroit Pistons (24-47)

Who wins this one? The team that just had a 10-game losing streak (where it lost those games by an average of 18 points) snapped with a one-point win against the Charlotte Bobcats? Or the team that had lost nine road games in a row before beating the Phoenix Suns? And which one of those teams is which? I've been a fan of multiple -- multiple -- teams that won 23 or fewer games in a season, so maybe I shouldn't be too harsh.

TV: Fox Sports Detroit, Fox Sports North

9:30 p.m. Los Angeles Clippers (48-22) vs. Dallas Mavericks (34-36)

If the Mavericks really want to contend for a spot in the Western Conference playoffs, they need every game for the rest of the year -- this one against one of the league's elite teams included.

The Mavs have sat idly by and cackled as the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Lakers have traded blows in a battle to see who can lose the most games down the stretch. In the 10th spot, Dallas seemed to be out of contention just a few weeks ago, but it has gone 8-3 in its last 11 games -- is it because of the addition of Mike James to the starting lineup? In 2013? Maybe? -- while the Lakers have lost four in a row and Utah needed a win over the Sixers Monday night to snap a four-game losing streak of their own. James has been strong -- he led the team with 19 in a win over Utah; Dirk Nowitzki has been back to his classic self, hitting double digits in all but one of his starts after taking a while to return from offseason injury; Brandan Wright is filling in capably at center; and Vince Carter is reasonably effective.

But on the other side stand the Clippers. They've won both regular season matchups, with Chris Paul averaging 16.5 points and 14.5 assists between the two games. For all the veteran wile and shooting touch Mike James has brought to the Mavs, he's going to be completely at Paul's mercy, which could spell trouble as the Mavs scramble defenders to deal with a streaking Paul -- leaving everybody else on the floor open.

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The best NBA draft prospects of March Madness

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