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Opening Tip: Rivalry losing steam?

Carmelo Anthony and Paul Pierce are two of the lead characters in this edition of the Knicks-C's rivalry. Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Every weekday throughout the season, ESPNNewYork.com will tackle a burning question about the Knicks in our "Opening Tip" segment.

Today's Burning Question: With the Knicks currently sitting at 23-10 and the Celtics at 16-17, is the rivalry on a decline?

In a regular-season game in 2011, the Knicks and Celtics set the stage for how physical this matchup would be. Anthony needed five stitches on his left eye, and Ray Allen had to get seven stitches on his head. The Celtics won, 96-86, and they also beat the Knicks in that year's first-round playoff series -- with the first two games being hotly-contested affairs.

Then in a regular-season game last year, stars Carmelo Anthony and Paul Pierce went toe-to-toe, scoring 35 and 43 points, respectively, to keep their teams battling down the stretch throughout the tight defensive contest.

So what will 2013 offer?

Clearly, the Celtics have not been the same intense defensive team. Last season, they were second-best in the NBA in points allowed (below 90), but now they rank in the middle of the pack in that department. While the Knicks have declined recently on the defensive end, their offensive efficiency has been awesome this season -- and they could shoot the Celtics out of the gym on Monday night. One of Boston's biggest sore spots this season has been defending the perimeter.

Of course, intrigue comes with the territory because it is Knicks-Celtics, after all. Also, the Celtics are entering the Garden with a two-game winning streak and coach Doc Rivers has appeared to lock in on a rotation. It all starts with the same starting five from last season, when the Celtics made a second-half run to boost their playoff seeding.

But the Knicks are two steps ahead, as they've already developed a system that works, which has led to their winning culture. The tale of the tape has now reversed, where the Knicks, not the Celtics, are the championship-caliber team. And the rivalry that had been in full effect since 2011 may not be the same after tonight.

Do you agree? Disagree? Where do you think the rivalry stands entering tonight? Leave us your comments below.

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