In their last two games, the New York Knicks have played the kind of basketball team chairman James Dolan could label “evident progress” for coach and general manager Isiah Thomas to keep his job beyond the season.
The Knicks, though, will try to overcome their recent home struggles against the Boston Celtics as the Atlantic Division rivals meet Saturday at Madison Square Garden.
New York (4-6) has won consecutive games for the first time this season and is coming off a 100-76 rout Friday at Miami—which played without center Shaquille O’Neal. Jamal Crawford scored 19 points off the bench in just 23 minutes as the Knicks placed five players in double figures and shot 51.9 percent (40-for-77) from the field.
“This has been the most balanced victory so far,” Crawford said. “It feels good to come in and spread the ball out and make plays.”
Thomas’ team may have begun to realize the benefits of sharing the ball. New York had six players with at least three assists Friday, led by forward Quentin Richardson’s six. The Knicks are 4-0 when recording 20 or more assists, and 0-6 when they fail to reach 20.
New York totaled 21 assists Friday.
The Knicks also received an inspired performance from their reserves, who accounted for 46 points on 18-for-35 shooting. David Lee had 12 points and eight rebounds while Jerome James contributed nine points and three boards in his season debut.
The Knicks have lost 15 of their last 20 games to the Celtics, and their last meeting at Madison Square Garden was arguably the nadir of the one-season tenure of Larry Brown. Boston rolled to a 123-98 victory March 29 in which it scored 71 first-half points, placed six players in double figures and shot 57 percent from the field in winning for the eighth time in its last 10 visits to New York.
New York won three in a row just twice last season, a six-game run from Jan. 2-13 and a three-game streak April 5-9.
The Celtics (3-6) also enter this game with back-to-back wins for the first time this season and completed a three-game homestand with one-sided victories over Indiana and Portland. Paul Pierce scored 29 points in three quarters, and Sebastian Telfair added 15 and seven assists against his old team Friday in a 118-90 rout of the Trail Blazers.
“If felt good,” said Telfair, who was the centerpiece of an offseason five-player trade that sent him from Portland to Boston. “I’d be lying if I said it didn’t. I wouldn’t say it was like revenge or anything—I’m not holding a grudge that bad. But I’m happy that we went out there and played the way we did.”
Wally Szczerbiak added 19 points for the Celtics, who have shot 50 percent or better from the field in their last two games including going 20-for-33 shots (60.6 percent) from 3-point range. Pierce sank four 3-pointers Friday as Boston went 12-for-20 from beyond the arc.
Boston has not won three straight games since a four-game run from April 12-17, 2005.
New York averted a series sweep last season with a 101-87 win April 9 at Boston.