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Celtics halt Knicks' two game win streak

New York Knicks' Tracy McGrady , left, Al

New York Knicks' Tracy McGrady , left, Al Harrington, center, and J.R. Giddens looks on from the bench late in the fourth quarter of the Knicks' 109-97 loss to the Boston Celtics. (March 17, 2010) Credit: AP

BOSTON - The Celtics may have built it quickly, but it certainly wasn't built to last. Just two years after winning the NBA title, they are clearly an aging team with not much left on the clock. Kevin Garnett, who is recovering from a knee injury, is a shell of the ferocious defender he used to be and Ray Allen is a free agent this summer. At this point, Rajon Rondo is arguably their best player.

The Knicks gladly would trade their $30 million-plus in cap space this summer for the same kind of instant gratification the Celtics enjoyed in 2008, but Donnie Walsh often has said he wants to build a team with a much longer shelf life.

If Walsh's plan goes accordingly, these two franchises might even pass each other in the standings, which would go according to this pseudo-rivalry. The teams were rarely elite teams at the same time over the last 30 years.

And right now, they're not even close.

Paul Pierce had 29 points and Garnett added 22 to lead the Celtics (43-24) in a 109-97 win over the Knicks last night on a St. Patrick's Day game at the TD Garden. David Lee had 29 points for the Knicks (24-44), who saw their modest winning streak end at two.

Doc Rivers knows the expression Mike D'Antoni's face had several times last night - and most of these two seasons with the Knicks. He wore it himself just three years ago, before the arrival of Garnett and Allen and the sudden return of the Celtic mystique after several mediocre years.

But Rivers, who endured seasons of 33 and 24 wins in his first two seasons in Boston before the 2008 championship, said there is a difference between the two situations.

"The difference for us," Rivers said, "was we weren't trying to clear cap . . . We didn't know what was ahead of us. At least in their case they kind of know. They don't know who, but they know what they want to do."

What D'Antoni wants to do is get back to playing his famous Seven Seconds or Less system that continues to be an offensive juggernaut in Phoenix, where on Tuesday, the Suns scored 152 points against the Timberwolves.

D'Antoni tried to implement it here in New York, but with an ever-changing roster that was built based on one statistic - the expiration date on the contract - it proved to be fruitless. With two-time MVP Steve Nash running the show, the system is dynamically successful. When you have glorified backups surrounded by role players and below-average shooters, it's evidently a dynamic disaster.

This is why along with longevity, the Knicks need to be rebuilt with players who actually fit D'Antoni's system and, of course, at least one - preferably two - star players like D'Antoni had with the Suns. The lesson D'Antoni has learned in these first two seasons with the Knicks is he can't play his system without at least one star player.

The Dolan family owns a controlling interest in Knicks owner MSG and Cablevision. Cablevision owns Newsday.


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