Notebook: Physical play defines matchup

It's only the second week of January, but the Knicks and Celtics on Monday night went at each other like the game had everything on the line. There was Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Garnett battling intensely on the block, and there were J.R. Smith and Avery Bradley sticking to one another like glue, which, at one point late in the fourth quarter, resulted in a bloody collision.

"They were physical on the ball, forcing us to take some tough shots," Tyson Chandler said after the game.

Smith eventually needed 11 stitches -- Bradley was OK -- and it offered a flashback to the Knicks-Celtics regular-season game in March 2011. That's when Anthony received five stitches on his left eye and Ray Allen needed seven stitches on his head.

Even after Boston's 102-96 win on Monday, emotions were running hot. Melo, who lost his cool in the middle of the fourth quarter after sharing some heated words with Garnett, waited for KG outside the Celtics' bus.

Overall, it's safe to say the rivalry is refueled.

MELO THE FACILITATOR: Only four games into the new year, Anthony already has 18 assists in January. He recorded just 15 last month.

In the Knicks' win over the Magic on Saturday night, Melo had a season-high six assists. While he had a poor shooting night against the Celtics, going 6-for-26, he kept his passing up with five dimes. He actually facilitated New York's first two buckets of the game by finding Chandler inside.

"Carmelo's passing the ball so well," Steve Novak said postgame.

Anthony has been playing selflessly in the absence of Raymond Felton. He has especially been excelling in more pick and rolls with the bigs -- even Amar'e Stoudemire.

CHANDLER AND CAMBY TOGETHER AGAIN: In their third game starting side-by-side, Chandler and Marcus Camby combined for more than 80 percent of New York's rebounds. While Camby added seven rebounds, a block and steal, Chandler did his usual thing on both ends of the court, recording a double-double with 13 points and 17 rebounds.

PRIGIONI? NO BUENO: After playing great defense and moving the ball fluidly last week in a win over the Spurs, Pablo Prigioni struggled against the Celtics. He couldn't get deep penetration and he appeared rattled when the Celtics, especially quick defensive guards Bradley and Courtney Lee, put more pressure on him.

Toward the end of the third quarter, Prigioni made a bad pass and then was called for an offensive call. That's when, uncharacteristically, he lost his cool and kicked the ball, which resulted in his first technical of the season.

With four turnovers and no assists in 15 minutes, of course some frustration would build.

Mike Woodson kept Prigioni in the game at the start of the fourth quarter, but just 30 seconds in, the point guard couldn't break free from a halfcourt trap and he made an errant pass -- his third turnover in a row. That's when Woody quickly called for Jason Kidd, who finished with eight points and six assists, to head to the scorer's table.