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Not a rivalry yet, but Celtics aware of what game means to Knicks

Boston Celtics' Paul Pierce (34) keeps the ball

Boston Celtics' Paul Pierce (34) keeps the ball away from Portland Trail Blazers' Wesley Matthews in the third quarter. (Dec. 1, 2010) Credit: AP

 The last time Paul Pierce was at Madison Square Garden, he performed a home-run trot after his game-winning basket and yelled, "That's a walk-off!" in a 105-101 preseason win for the Celtics on what was his 33rd birthday.

The Yankees and Red Sox have their rivalry. The Jets and Patriots have developed one over the years, as well. 

But Knicks-Celtics?

"I don't know what it is, this rivalry thing, it hasn't been one," Doc Rivers told reporters in Boston today, according to "We both were bad for a while. Now we've been good for a while. The two teams haven't exactly matched up for a long time. You know when they do, it will be great."

Riding an eight-game winning streak, the Knicks are four games behind the East (and Atlantic Division) leading Celtics, who have won 10 straight. One of these streaks will end Wednesday night at MSG.

Pierce earlier in the week told the Boston Globe that "this is going to be one of our biggest games" because of how hot the Knicks, and their NBA-leading offense, have been with 13 wins in their last 14 games. And also because of what it would mean to the rebuilding Knicks to claim this W.

“This is a game that could really put their season on a whole other level than it already is,’’ Pierce said. “So we’ve got to be aware of the energy they’re going to bring. The building’s going to really be electric, nationally televised game, but we’ve been in that position before.’’

Rivers also noted the importance the game has for the Knicks.

"They're probably extremely fired up for this game and I hope our guys will match that intensity," Rivers said on Tuesday. "But any time a game has energy, it's great. I think it's really great for us. Finding ways to get [the Celtics] up is nice, when you don't have to do it. We'll let the New York people do it by what they'll say over the next two days."

What they'll say? Interesting. Is Doc looking for more bulletin board material? Recall the last time the Knicks and Celtics met on national TV (Nov. 2007), Quentin Richardson said before the game that the Knicks were "not in awe" of the Big Three. "They ain't won no championships," Q-Rich said. 

The Knicks went on to get spanked by 40 in front of a TNT audience. Kevin Garnett made a point to say that Richardson's comments motivated his team.

Don't expect the Knicks to fall into the same trap this time around. But the Garden should provide a great atmosphere for both teams and a great stage for the game.

"I just know that, when the Knicks are playing well and there's energy in the building, it's fun for everybody," Rivers said. "I loved it as an opponent, I loved when I was playing there. It's the only [original] building alive, as far as older buildings. It has it in it. It has the feeling inside, you can feel that."


New York Sports