The road hasn’t been kind to the Boston Celtics recently, as they’ve dropped three of their past four away from home. A trip to Madison Square Garden should help end their struggles.
The Celtics will look for their ninth victory in a row against the New York Knicks on Sunday in midtown Manhattan, where they’ve beaten the Knicks six straight times.
Forty-three games separated Boston (29-5) from last-place New York in the Atlantic Division standings last season, as the Celtics went on to win their NBA-record 17th championship.
The gap between two of the league’s most storied franchises was certainly evident in their four head-to-head meetings, which Boston won by an average of 18.8 points. The Celtics haven’t lost at MSG against the Knicks (12-19) since March 23, 2005.
The old rivals have met twice in Boston so far this season, and the Celtics didn’t have much trouble either time. They won 110-101 on Nov. 18 with Kevin Garnett serving a one-game suspension, and throttled New York 124-105 on Dec. 21 behind 26 points - 18 in the third quarter - from Rajon Rondo. That was Boston’s 18th consecutive win, tying a franchise record that it broke two nights later.
“Rondo was unbelievable the third quarter,” said Garnett, who had 12 points and eight rebounds. “He totally took the game over. He had almost a perfect game.”
Rondo shot 12-of-14 in that game, but during the Celtics’ four-game road trip in late December - where they lost three times - he was just 15-of-37 (40.5 percent).
He only took six shots on Friday when Boston returned home to face Washington, and Rondo made four of them, scoring 10 points. But he also had 14 assists, and this time it was Paul Pierce who was nearly perfect from the field, going 9-of-10 and scoring 26 points in a 108-83 rout.
“I was just playing in the flow of the game,” Pierce said. “I got a lot of open looks because of the way we moved the ball. Rondo got into the lane, penetrating, and that really opened things up.”
Rondo is averaging 19.2 points in his last five games against New York.
The Knicks closed out December with a 93-89 win at Charlotte, ending a six-game losing streak, but began the new year with another tough loss.
With the score tied late in the fourth quarter on Friday at home against the Pacers, Indiana’s Jarrett Jack hit a jumper with 0.9 seconds left, handing New York a 105-103 loss.
“That’s what you call beating yourself, when you do that,” Harrington said. “I had my fair share. We all did, and that’s something we usually don’t do.”
Lee has been the Knicks’ most consistent player, averaging 14.8 points and 10.9 rebounds while shooting 57.3 percent.
He has 19 double-doubles in his last 22 games, but two of the three games in which he’s failed to record at least 10 points and 10 boards came against Boston. Lee is averaging 13.5 points and 7.5 rebounds versus the Celtics.
Harrington, who came to New York in the November trade that sent Jamal Crawford to Golden State, has faced Boston once in a Knicks uniform - a game he’d like to forget. He shot 2-of-15 and had 10 points in the 19-point loss two weeks ago.