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One of the best stories of last NBA season was the revival of the New York Knicks.
The Knicks, after years of losses and embarrassment, had a fun season. They made the playoffs and hosted a first-round series as a top-four seed in the East. The Atlanta Hawks won that series, but it was still a growth season.
Just because you have a breakout season, it doesn't mean the next step is forward. The 2021-22 Knicks have had a tough time replicating last season's success.
The Knicks are 18-20 heading into a high-profile TNT game against the Boston Celtics on Thursday night. The Knicks are 1.5-point underdogs at home. The Knicks' 16-21-1 record against the spread is the seventh-worst in the NBA, according to The Action Network. That reflects their disappointing season.
The Knicks have won four of six and are coming off a solid 104-94 win over the Indiana Pacers. Julius Randle just came off the COVID-19 list and had a monster game that was reminiscent of last season. Maybe things are turning around.
Randle hasn't been able to repeat last season's phenomenal success. His scoring is down from 24.1 to 19.6. His shooting percentage has gone from 45.6 to 42.3. He's not having a bad season, but it's not the great one he put together a year ago. He played a ton of minutes last season and maybe he's feeling some of those effects.
Everything about the Knicks has slipped just a bit from last season. The offense has missed many more shots. The defense hasn't been nearly as effective. The additions to the roster haven't fit great, particularly Kemba Walker. That's why the Knicks are tied for the 10th-best record (with the Celtics) in the East.
There's still time for the Knicks to rally. But they might not want to waste too much more time.
Here's a first look at the sports betting slate for Thursday:
What else is on the NBA schedule?
There are four games total, and the second game of the TNT doubleheader is a chance to watch the Phoenix Suns, one of the NBA's best teams. The Los Angeles Clippers have been shorthanded all season and especially so after Paul George's injury, and they'll try to keep it close against the Suns. Phoenix is an 11.5-point favorite.
Who else is playing?
There isn't a ton on the college basketball schedule, with four top-25 games. Two are from the Big Ten. Ohio State plays at Indiana and Wisconsin hosts Iowa. Indiana and Wisconsin are both 2.5-point favorites.
There are 11 NHL games, even with two of them being postponed. The best game is the surprising Calgary Flames, at 17-8-6, against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Tampa Bay had the most points in the East before Wednesday night's game. Tampa Bay is a hefty -160 favorite.
Anything else of note?
Golf is back! The Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii has a large purse and that is bringing out a star-filled field. Justin Thomas is the favorite at +800, Jon Rahm is next at +900, then Bryson DeChambeau and Collin Morikawa are next at +1000. The majors will be here before you know it. This tournament is a nice reminder of that in the dead of winter.
What's the best bet?
Let's do a rare hockey play here and take the Flames at +130. You won't get a quality team like Calgary with that type of number too often.