Before the start for the NBA season, the Boston Celtics were the favorites to win the Atlantic Division and challenge the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference. A week into 2013, it’s the New York Knicks that seem to be the biggest threat to the defending champs.

New York holds a seven-game lead over Boston, who sits in third place in the division and eighth in entire conference. On Monday night, the two rivals will face each other for the first time this season.

The Celtics will visit the Knicks for a 7:30 p.m. ET start at Madison Square Garden. You can watch a live stream online by purchasing NBA League Pass Broadband.

At 16-17, Boston will have a tough time picking up the road win. The Knicks are seven-point favorites at MSG, where they are 13-3 this season.

Boston will have a tougher time than usual in this contest. They will be without Rajon Rondo, who has been suspended one game for making contact with an official and failing to cooperate with the league’s investigation.

While the Celtics started to have success with the formation of the “Big 3,” Rondo may be the best player on the team. He leads the league with 11.3 assists per game and is third on the team with an average of 13.2 points.

Recently, the Knicks haven’t been able to stop Rondo. Last season, he averaged 17.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and 13.3 assists against New York in four games.

The Knicks, on the other hand, will have their top player. Carmelo Anthony has scored at least 40 points in two of his last three games. On Saturday, he led New York to a comeback win against the Orlando Magic with a 40-point effort.

His numbers haven’t been affected by the return of Amare Stoudemire. The Knicks are 2-1 since the big man returned to the lineup from a knee injury. He’s continued to look rusty, making 40 percent of his shots and coming off the bench. Stoudemire has yet to play more than 21 minutes in a game.

Prediction: Without Rondo, the Celtics could have a very tough time scoring the ball. His quickness would’ve given Jason Kidd trouble, but Now Boston will have a hard time getting into the paint. The Knicks have had trouble with teams who can rebound the ball well, but Boston is even worse than New York at grabbing boards. The first matchup between these teams might turn into a blowout.

Predicted Score: New York 110, Boston 92