Rivalry Revisited? Not Just Yet

WALTHAM, Mass. – Paul Pierce chuckled at the suggestion that Wednesday night’s contest in New York might be that of a rivalry. Using such a word to describe a matchup between the Celtics and Knicks is surely pretentious, but there’s no downplaying the hype that’s currently snowballing into the Big Apple.

Boston hasn’t played since Saturday and New York has been off since Sunday, which means the media and public will have had two full days to gear up before the teams’ showdown at 7 p.m. Wednesday night on ESPN.

We all know about the distaste these two cities have for one another, but it has grown stale from a basketball sense over the past decade. Now that Boston and New York are once again feared throughout the league, everyone is chomping at the bit to see them compete against each other.

“We both had been bad for a while, (now the Celtics have) been good for a while,” Doc Rivers said regarding the C’s and Knicks. “The two teams haven’t exactly matched for a long time, and you know when they do, it will be great.”

That’s what we’re all hoping for when the teams square off Wednesday night in Madison Square Garden.

The Celtics are the reigning Eastern Conference champions and are in their familiar position atop the conference again this season. The Knicks, meanwhile, have finally become relevant again having won 13 of their last 14 games. Both squads have won at least eight games in a row, and that’s just one of the reasons why the hype around this contest continues to grow.

“New York is playing well, (they’re) in our division, both teams are streaking,” Pierce said, reluctantly touching on the buildup of the game. “It’s going to be a good game.”

In addition to the great matchup on the court, players weren’t shy about mentioning where that court is located – in "the world’s most famous arena.”

Nearly every player and coach who spoke at Tuesday’s practice couldn’t resist touching on the prospect of playing in a meaningful game in MSG for the first time in years.

“My favorite place to play,” Ray Allen said of the Garden. “It’s just so unique. The tradition. As a college player playing in there, playing in big games, understanding just the tradition of New York basketball and all of the great players that have played there. That building is timeless.”

Glen Davis took it a step further.

“I think every player will say that when you play in Madison Square Garden, it’s like the dome of all domes,” he said. “It’s like a sanctuary, as far as where you play at.”

It has, in fact, been a sanctuary for the Celtics, because they’ve won nearly every game they’ve played there in recent memory. Boston will head into New York having won 10 of its last 13 games in MSG dating back to March 9, 2004.

This game, however, will undoubtedly hold much more luster than any of those contests over the past six years. Each team will put a hefty winning streak on the line in front of a national television audience. Luckily for the Celtics, such a spotlight is familiar territory.

“It’s nothing we haven’t done before,” said Pierce. “I mean, we’ve been on a 10-game win streak before, but we have bigger goals than winning streaks.”

Boston’s larger goal remains an 18th championship, while the Knicks and their city are simply happy to be winning games. With that being said, we will see the ascending host the ascended under the brightest lights MSG has shone in years during an NBA game.

As Pierce’s initial laugh indicated, this one is far from a rivalry, but it sure is fun to think about what may be in store for the two divisional opponents in the two biggest sports cities on the East Coast.