Celtics-Knicks Preview

The Associated Press

With Carmelo Anthony playing like an MVP candidate, the New York Knicks look poised to end the Boston Celtics' run of five straight Atlantic Division titles.

With Rajon Rondo suspended, New York could be in especially good position to take the teams' first meeting of the season.

Rondo will miss Monday night's game at Madison Square Garden against Anthony and the division-leading Knicks as both teams search for a third straight win.

The Knicks' leading scorer put in 16 of his 40 points in the fourth quarter Saturday in a 114-106 victory at Orlando. New York (23-10) trailed by eight points entering the final period.

Anthony, who leads all Eastern Conference players with 29.3 points per game, heard MVP chants during the comeback win.

"I hear 'em," Anthony said. "It feels good, though. It just goes to show how much work I'm putting in, how much the team is putting in, we're winning games and that's the most important part."

While Boston (16-17) has set the standard in the Atlantic over the previous five seasons, New York is on top now with a 4 1/2-game lead over Brooklyn and the third-place Celtics seven games back. The Knicks last won a division title in 1993-94.

"We focus on ourselves," said Anthony, who has scored at least 40 in two of his last three games. "It just happens that the Celtics is the next game on our schedule."

The Suns on Wednesday are the next game on Rondo's schedule after the point guard found out Monday afternoon that he'd been suspended one game for making contact with an official in Saturday's 89-81 win at Atlanta. Rondo, who averaged 17.3 points, 13.3 assists and 8.3 rebounds in four games against the Knicks last season, also failed to cooperate with a league investigation.

Boston is 1-3 this season without Rondo.

These rivals split the four meetings in 2011-12, with the home team winning each one. Anthony averaged 30.8 points and 7.5 rebounds and Amare Stoudemire - who has played three games since returning from knee surgery - had averages of 17.7 points and 10.0 boards in three games.

Boston's Paul Pierce averaged 35.7 points against New York for his highest mark against any opponent in 2011-12.

The Knicks used a different point guard each time against Boston last season with Baron Davis, Jeremy Lin, Iman Shumpert and Toney Douglas all getting starts. Now New York will use veteran Jason Kidd with an injured Raymond Felton out.

Kidd and Rondo did not meet last season since each missed one game when the Celtics faced Kidd's Dallas Mavericks, and they'll now have to wait until at least Jan. 24 to square off. Since Rondo came into the league in 2006-07, Kidd has an NBA-high 32 triple-doubles with Rondo third at 15.

Rondo notched his second triple-double of the season with 14 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists Saturday. Pierce scored 26 points as the Celtics rallied from a 15-point halftime deficit, improving to 2-1 since the season debut of guard Avery Bradley.

"The second half was completely different," coach Doc Rivers said. "We worked the set. The first play went from one side to the other on offense. On defense they were late in the shot clock because Avery and Rondo both were up ball pressuring. And it changed the game for us.''

Bradley, who was out with shoulder problems, is known for his defense. Two of Boston's best defensive efforts in terms of points allowed have come since he has returned.

Although this is an intense rivalry, there may not be too much intimidation in the paint. These are two of the NBA's worst shot blocking teams, with Boston averaging 4.0 and New York 3.8.

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