Walker, who spent seven seasons with the Celtics before being traded to Dallas 1 1/2 years ago, returned to Boston at the trading deadline in a deal that sent Gary Payton, Tom Gugliotta, Michael Stewart and a future first-round pick to Atlanta. Payton did not report to the Hawks and was re-signed by the Celtics one week later.
Walker finished with 18 points, nine rebounds and four assists for the Celtics, who have gone 11-1 since his return and have taken a 5 1/2 -game lead over the Philadelphia 76ers in the Atlantic Division.
Boston hasn’t won eight in a row since a nine-game run from March 16-31, 1993.
“We’re rolling,” Walker said. “This builds confidence. … We’ve got a good balance of guys who’ve been there before. We’re trying to just keep this train rolling—just keep winning games however they come.”
The Celtics’ longest winning streak of the season before Walker returned was just three games. Boston also has won five straight on the road since the trade.
“You’ve got a lot of veterans out there who understand the game and understand what it takes to win,” Pierce said. “We’ve just got to do a good job of showing the young guys, when they come in, what they have to do for us to be a top-notch team. That’s taking care of business, keeping leads, holding on to them and not having any lapses.”
The Celtics will be trying to extend their run against a Knicks team they’ve beaten in all three meetings this season. Boston, looking to sweep the series for the third time in four seasons, has won six of its last seven visits to Madison Square Garden.
New York, however, has been playing well at home.
Stephon Marbury scored the Knicks’ final 14 points of the third quarter and finished with 31 points and 10 assists to lead New York.
The Knicks, trying to keep their slim playoff hopes alive, pulled within 3 1/2 games of eighth-place Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference standings with 17 games remaining.
“We just need to play our game,” Marbury said. “Get all the hustle points and play extremely hard on both sides of the court.”
New York played without leading rebounder Kurt Thomas, who sat out with an infected elbow and is listed as day to day.