Daily Confidential

Paul Pierce and the Boston Celtics look to defeat the New York Knicks for the ninth time in 11 meetings Friday when the Atlantic Division rivals square off for the second time in seven days.

Boston (4-7) is hosting this matchup after a 122-118 win at New York (4-9) on Saturday. Pierce scored 39 points and Ryan Gomes added 22 points and 14 rebounds as the Celtics won three straight for the first time since a four-game run from April 12-17, 2005.

The Knicks wasted Jamal Crawford's 37 points and missed a chance to win three in a row for the first time this season.

``We're at home, and it speaks for itself,'' Knicks coach Isiah Thomas said. ``Boston was a lot better at playing small than we were. They were just better than we were tonight, and you have to give them credit.''

The defeat started a season high-tying three-game slide for New York, which suffered its worst loss of the season Wednesday when it fell 107-89 at Minnesota. The Knicks trailed by 19 points in the first quarter and were never in the game.

``We were bad all the way around,'' Thomas said, before cutting short his postgame interview session.

Thomas changed his starting lineup before the game, inserting leading scorer Crawford in place of a struggling Steve Francis. Each finished with a team-high 19 points.

Francis averaged just 9.8 points and 4.0 assists in nine starts before Thomas opted to take some of the pressure off of him.

``He definitely sees himself fitting in in the way he thinks he can help us,'' the coach said.

Stephon Marbury is also struggling, averaging career lows of 11.5 points and 4.7 assists in Thomas' offense. Marbury's starting job, though, is not in jeopardy for now.

The Knicks are allowing opponents to score 102.2 points per game, the second-worst mark in the Eastern Conference.

After beating the Knicks, Boston had its win streak snapped with a 92-83 loss at Charlotte on Wednesday. Pierce scored 28 points, but no other Celtic had more than 12.

It was the lowest point total of the season for the Celtics, who averaged 118.0 points during their three-game run.

``You play like you practice and I felt the last two practices we were walking around like we had just climbed Mount Everest,'' Boston coach Doc Rivers said. ``I need to do a better job of coaching and the players need to do a better job of playing.

``This was an embarrassing effort on our part.''

Celtics guard Delonte West missed Wednesday's game with a sprained left big toe and his status for Friday is uncertain. West is averaging 7.7 points while shooting a career-low 34.1 percent from the field.

Copyright 2006 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited