Celtics vs. Knicks preview: J.R. Smith and Jeff Green lead injury-plagued teams

Jared Wickerham

The Boston Celtics finish their season-series against the New York Knicks in Madison Square Garden with a season series on the line and a playoff preview possible.

Should the New York Knicks protect Madison Square Garden on Sunday, they would win a regular season series against the Boston Celtics for the first time since in 2003-04, before coach Doc Rivers joined the Celtics. And should the Knicks win to bring their winning streak to eight games, it's even more possible New York and Boston meet in the first round of the postseason.

The red-hot Knicks are chasing down Indiana for the second spot in the Eastern Conference playoff standings, and an injury-plagued Boston team appears likely locked into seventh.

Growth from role players during strings of injuries is a shared theme for the rivals.

The Celtics head to New York on a two-game winning streak despite being without forward Kevin Garnett, who is resting an inflamed ankle. They aren't alone in being down some bodies, of course. The Knicks continue to beat the odds by running out a small ball lineup that features midseason signee Kenyon Martin in the middle and Carmelo Anthony playing the part of power forward.

Most impressively and most importantly for New York's success has been the play of reserve guard J.R. Smith, who has eclipsed the 30-point mark in each of his last three games. In his last 10 games, Smith is averaging 25 points per game and has put aside his affinity for chucking and replaced it with efficiency -- he's shooting nearly 49 percent from the floor over that span.

On Boston's end, the emergence of forward Jeff Green has similarly played a large part in Boston hanging tough this season.

Green is averaging 19 points over the last 10 games, and he's also shooting 49 percent from the floor. He scored 27 points on Friday in a 118-107 Celtics victory against the Atlanta Hawks.

Slumping Melo?

Carmelo Anthony has become less efficient as the Knicks' roster has lost bodies. Anthony has also been banged up this month and has missed six games.

Through 11 games played in March, however, the league's second-leading scorer (27.6 points per game) has averaged only 23.6 points per game while shooting just below 40 percent from the field. In a 111-102 victory against the Charlotte Bobcats on Friday, Anthony scored 32 points but took 28 shots to get that total.

Time: 7:30 p.m. ET

TV: MSG / CSN

Odds: The Knicks opened as 6.5-point favorites.

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