Boston (28-36) at New York (29-35)

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  • Game info: 7:30 pm EST Tue Mar 9, 2004
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The New York Knicks will try for the first season-series sweep of the Boston Celtics in seven years when the teams meet at Madison Square Garden.

New York had lost eight straight to Boston before taking the first three meetings this season. The Knicks are in position for their first sweep of the rival Celtics since 1996-97.

Thanks in part to their success against the Celtics, the Knicks have a slim lead over Boston in the Eastern Conference playoff race. New York, which has missed the playoffs the past two seasons, is in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, one game ahead of Boston with 18 games to play.

Knicks rookie forward Mike Sweetney had a career-high 10 rebounds in Sunday’s 99-86 victory over Washington.

“Our young rookie boy, he just goes after the ball,” coach Lenny Wilkens said. “Sweetney had a terrific game. He’s relentless. He keeps going after it.”

The No. 9 overall pick in the 2003 draft has gotten more playing time now that Dikembe Mutombo is out with an abdominal injury. Sweetney is averaging 2.8 points and 2.1 rebounds in 8.2 minutes.

Stephon Marbury had 24 points and 13 assists, and Allan Houston added 23 points as the Knicks won their third straight following a six-game losing streak. Marbury is averaging 31.6 points and 7.6 assists during the winning streak.

New York guard Frank Williams was not with the team due to personal reasons, while forward Othella Harrington returned after missing one game due to personal reasons. Williams’ status for Tuesday’s game is uncertain.

Boston is coming in riding a season high-tying five-game winning streak. Boston’s surge comes after losing 12 of its first 13 games under interim head coach John Carroll. The Celtics also won five straight from Dec. 7-13.

After being hit by an elbow in the first half, Jiri Welsch scored 18 points in the second, including 14 in the fourth quarter, to lead Boston over Minnesota 80-77 on Sunday.

“It’s one of our biggest wins of the year against a team that many people expect to be in the finals,” said Celtics forward Paul Pierce, who had 13 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. “Kevin Garnett is definitely the MVP in my eyes, but we are fighting for our playoff lives.”

Mark Blount, averaging 19.6 points in his previous three games, did not score but had 11 rebounds.

STANDINGS (through March 7): Celtics - 3rd place, 11 GB, Atlantic Division. Knicks - 2nd place, 10 GB, Atlantic Division.

PROBABLE STARTERS: Celtics - F Welsch, F Brandon Hunter, C Blount, G Pierce, G Chucky Atkins. Knicks - F Kurt Thomas, F Tim Thomas, C Nazr Mohammed, G Houston, G Marbury.

TEAM LEADERS: Celtics - Pierce, 22.8 ppg, 6.5 rpg and 5.2 apg. Knicks - Marbury, 21.1 ppg and 8.8 apg; Kurt Thomas, 8.5 rpg.

SEASON SERIES: Knicks, 3-0.

LAST MEETING: Jan. 30; Knicks, 92-74. At Boston, Marbury scored 17 points to lead the Knicks.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Celtics - 14-18 on the road; Knicks - 17-15 at home.

INJURIES: Celtics - F-C Raef LaFrentz (knee). Knicks - C Mutombo (abdomen); G Moochie Norris (Achilles’).

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