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Celtics overcome Stoudemire, Felton in win

12/16/2010

The roughly 20-year hiatus of the Boston Celtics-New York Knicks rivalry was well worth the wait on Wednesday, as the Celtics hung on for a thrilling 118-116 win at Madison Square Garden. The game was full of superlative performances on both team and individual levels.

First and foremost, the Celtics extended their win streak to 11 games. While winning streaks of this nature have become almost commonplace for these Celtics, it remains impressive nonetheless. The Celtics have five 10-game win streaks since the 2007-08 season, which is two more than the next-closest team. Boston had a remarkable night shooting from all points on the floor -- the Celtics became the first team to shoot 100 percent from the free throw line, 50 percent from the field and 50 percent from 3-point range since ... the Knicks. The Knicks did it more than two years ago, in November of 2008. And, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, since the 3-point line was introduced (1979-80), no team had ever done that against the Knicks.

Consecutive 30-point games
Since 2005-06

The Celtics’ stars stepped up in the spotlight. In addition to hitting the game-winning shot with 0.4 seconds remaining, Paul Pierce (32 points, 10 rebounds) scored 30 or more for the first time since Jan. 29 of last season and posted his second double-double of the season, while Rajon Rondo (10 points, 14 assists) now has double-digit assists in 17 of 20 games this season.

The most impressive story, however, could be from the losing team. While the Knicks saw their eight-game win streak snapped, the team’s two offseason imports -- Amar'e Stoudemire and Raymond Felton -- continued their remarkable run of production. Stoudemire contributed 39 points and 10 rebounds while Felton chipped in 26 points and 14 assists.

Felton has recorded a double-double in seven of his last nine games and is averaging 20.3 PPG and 11.0 APG over that stretch. Stoudemire has nine consecutive games of 30-plus points and his 39 points marked the third-highest total against the Celtics since the 2007-08 season.

Amare Stoudemire: 2010-11

While the return of the rivalry is certainly one takeaway from this contest, Stoudemire’s remarkable turnaround from a slow start this season arguably stands above all. Stoudemire’s shooting was off to start the year and since the moment he’s taken off, the Knicks have, too. Stoudemire’s increase in efficiency -- note the increase from 44.8 percent shooting to 57.9 -- has put to rest the concerns that his offensive game had been detrimentally impacted by no longer playing with Steve Nash.

So while Wednesday might have ended the Knicks’ win streak, that doesn’t mean it should end the enthusiasm over the team’s start and the play of the team’s superstar.