The New York Knicks welcome their Atlantic Division rival the Boston Celtics to Madison Square Garden tonight. The Beanteamers, 36-25, are poised to clinch their fifth straight Division Title while New York at 31-29 is fighting hard to stave off the Milwaukee Bucks for the final postseason spot in the Eastern Conference.
These two longtime foes met in the first round of the 2011 NBA playoffs with the C’s dispatching the Knicks 4-love for the only sweep of the league’s eight first round series. This year these sides have met three times already with the Celts winning twice in Boston and the Knicks holding off the Green in Manhattan on Christmas Day, the NBA’s lockout shortened season’s opening day.
All three contests were extremely close. Twice the final differential was just 2 points, and the last time they met on March 4th in Boston coach Doc Rivers’ guys prevailed by 4 in OT. In that contest C’s PG Rajon Rondo had a triple-double for the ages: 18 points, 17 boards and 20 dimes.
The Celtics last played on Sunday against the woeful Bobcats in Charlotte. They won 94-82 playing without their Big 3 of Garnett, Pierce and Allen. After beating the Nets on Saturday night in Jersey, Doc Rivers decided to rest Garnett and Pierce against Charlotte and left them in NYC to await tonight’s important 48. Allen missed his 4th straight game with a sore ankle, but may be available tonight.
The Knickerbockers last played on Sunday afternoon against the Miami Heat on national television. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade were too much for the banged up Knicks and got the W, 93-85. In the loss Carmelo Anthony had 42 points, 9 boards and 5 dimes. With Amar’e Stoudemire out for his 11th straight game and Linsanity gone for the season, Melo has been carrying the scoring load, averaging 31.7 ppg in April.
Also of concern for coach Mike Woodson is C Tyson Chandler’s health. The probable Defensive Player of the Year hurt his knee in the thired quarter of Sunday’s game. He is expected to suit up tonight, but may be limited in his movement and on-court effectiveness.
New York will need Chandler and others to help on Rondo, who is playing like a man possessed lately. The 6th-year Kentucky Wildcat has dished for double digit dimes in 22 straight games. It’s the longest such streak in 20 seasons. He joins HOF’ers John Stockton and Magic Johnson as the only players with 10 assists in 20 straight games.
Tune in tonight at 8:00 PM ET to TNT to watch the Knicks and Celts battle for the final time this season.