New York (19-36) at Boston (35-19)

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Temp: -2° F
  • Game info: 7:30 pm EST Tue Feb 23, 2010
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With Paul Pierce(notes) and Tracy McGrady(notes) both battling injuries, Tuesday’s matchup between the Boston Celtics and visiting New York Knicks may be without two of its biggest names.

Nate Robinson(notes) probably won’t object to having more of the spotlight.

The diminutive new Celtic is expected to make his debut with Boston against the team that traded him away last week and the coach that benched him for an extended stretch earlier this season.

Robinson averaged 17.2 points for New York last season, and the 5-foot-9 guard has won many fans by capturing three slam dunk championships.

Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni, though, left him on the bench for 14 straight games in December, and the team finally dealt him to Boston along with Marcus Landry(notes) before Thursday’s trade deadline, getting Eddie House(notes), J.R. Giddens(notes) and Bill Walker(notes)—along with salary cap space this summer—in return.

An illness has delayed his debut, but Robinson may have preferred to make it a more dramatic one. D’Antoni explained the benching Jan. 1 by saying that the Knicks—currently losers of seven straight—were “trying to get (Robinson) focused on winning.”

Victories are certainly what the Celtics (35-19) have in mind, and they’ll be tougher to get if Pierce is out. The veteran was held to five points on 2-of-10 shooting in a 114-105 loss at Denver on Sunday, admitting that a sore thumb affected him.

“It’s pretty banged up right now,” said Pierce, who has also dealt with foot and knee problems this season.

“We’re talking about taking a few days off to get it back,” he said Monday. “If it feels how it feels right now, I probably won’t” play against the Knicks.

Before Sunday’s loss, Boston won the first three games of its road trip coming out of the All-Star break, including impressive victories over the Los Angeles Lakers and Portland.

But the Celtics are still 12-14 since beating Orlando on Christmas as the veteran-laden team tries to reassert itself as a serious contender along with the Magic and Cleveland in the Eastern Conference. Boston hosts the Cavaliers on Thursday.

It remains to be seen if Robinson’s arrival will help Boston turn things around, but the trade was met with skepticism by some Celtics players.

“I hope it’s for the best,” point guard Rajon Rondo(notes) told the NBA’s official Web site. “Eddie House can drop 20, 30 (points off the bench) too. But (the players)don’t make decision, we just play the game.”

House, a member of the Celtics’ NBA championship team in 2008, had 24 points in his Knicks debut Saturday against Oklahoma City, but he was held to 10 points on 4-of-16 shooting in an 83-67 loss to Milwaukee on Monday as New York dropped its season-high seventh straight.

The Knicks (19-36) had their lowest output of the season in the second game since their roster was revamped. McGrady, who was acquired from Houston on Thursday, led the team with 15 points but was held to 5-of-14 shooting after scoring 26 points in Saturday’s 121-118 overtime loss to the Thunder.

“I don’t want to make too many excuses, but obviously we weren’t familiar with what we’re doing and with each other,” D’Antoni said. “The first night, we ran on a lot of adrenaline and kind of got us through.”

McGrady’s status for Tuesday’s game is in doubt due to knee issues. He has played in only eight games this season following knee surgery.

“Hopefully it’s not sore (Tuesday),” McGrady said. “I may lace them up and play … but we’ll see.”

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Tuesday, Feb 23