Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Game 24: Celtics vs. Knicks
By Chris Forsberg
at Madison Square Garden, 7 p.m. | ESPN, WEEI (850 AM)
||(19-4, 9-3 away)
||-- vs. --
|| (16-9, 6-5 home)
GAME PREVIEW (via Stats Inc.)
It's not a big surprise that the Boston Celtics are the hottest team in the league. What is a shock is that the New York Knicks aren't far behind.
Boston goes for an 11th consecutive victory Wednesday night as it heads into Madison Square Garden looking to halt the Knicks' longest winning streak in more than 16 years.
"They're probably going to be extremely fired up for this game and I'm hoping our guys can match that intensity," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "Any time a game has energy, it's great. It's really great for us because finding ways to get them up is always nice when you don't have to do it."
With Dallas having its 12-game run snapped Monday, no team is on a longer win streak than the Celtics (19-4). Their stretch of 10 consecutive victories is one shy of their longest winning streak from all of last season.
New York (16-9) is on its longest run since taking 15 in a row March 1-April 2, 1994. The Knicks have won eight in a row as Amare Stoudemire has set a franchise record for consecutive 30-point games by reaching that mark in each victory.
While a long win streak might be expected of Boston, the reigning Eastern Conference champion which won the NBA title in 2008, New York hasn't even been to the playoffs since 2004. The Knicks, who didn't post more than four straight victories last season, have won 13 of 14.
"We have confidence. We know how good we can be. We see the room for improvement," Stoudemire said. "We can get better. We have confidence that we can win. Every game is a different story. We just have to make sure we are ready to go and play smart."
This matchup is by far the toughest challenge for the Knicks in weeks. Only three opponents among their last 14 currently have winning records.
"They obviously have won a championship a couple of years prior, went to the finals last year, so they're hands-down the team to beat in the East," Stoudemire said.
Among East teams, the Celtics have the best record overall and on the road at 9-3. They're allowing 91.0 points per game, tied with Miami for best in the league, and just 86.1 during the win streak.
"We're finding ways to win and we're doing it with defense," Kevin Garnett said.
New York is scoring a league-leading 108.5 per game, including 114.5 during its win streak as Stoudemire has averaged 33.9 points and 10.9 rebounds.
Read the full preview HERE.
FORSBERG'S THREE THINGS TO WATCH
- Can I get an encore?: In the teams' first meeting this season, Rondo registered a triple-double while handing out a jaw-dropping 24 assists (nearly challenging Bob Cousy's team record of 28). With the Knicks looking to keep the score in triple digits again, that means Rondo will have plenty of dime opportunities if this turns into another shootout.
- That's Amare! Stoudemire put up 27 points in the first meeting, but worked for it. A career 54.3 percent shooter, the Celtics harassed him into going 8-for-17 shooting overall and sent him to the line for 13 times to earn those points. Boston must also limit his fourth-quarter scoring as Stoudemire leads the NBA in that department, having scored at least 10 fourth-quarter points in nine games. According to ESPN researchers, no other player has done in more than six times (Stephen Curry, Dwyane Wade).
- Broken glass: In Boston's October triumph at the TD Garden, the Celtics dominated the rebounding category, finishing with a 54-38 advantage. In fact, Knicks starters not named Landry Fields combined for a mere 14 boards overall, while the rookie grabbed 10 more. Without Shaquille O'Neal (calf), the Celtics must find a way to maximize their size the way New York typically does with its smaller lineups.