Even though these teams have been at opposite ends of the Atlantic Division standings all season, it would have been hard to imagine just how bad the Boston Celtics would humiliate the New York Knicks when the teams first met.

Amazingly, it's the Knicks who have been causing opponents some embarrassment recently.

New York seeks its fifth win in six games and looks to avenge one of the worst losses in franchise history Monday when the Celtics make their first appearance at Madison Square Garden this season.

The lone matchup of the season between these rivals came Nov. 29 in Boston, and it turned out to be the low point of a dreadful first two months for the Knicks. The 104-59 defeat was the third-worst loss and second-lowest scoring performance of the shot-clock era for New York.

"Of course I am embarrassed. We lost by nearly 50 points," Knicks guard Stephon Marbury said after the game. "I'm angry. I'm always angry when I lose, but that was just flat-out embarrassing. To lose that bad was just ridiculous."

While the Knicks only avoided scoring the fewest points in team history because of Nate Robinson's 37-footer at the final buzzer, the Celtics were able to rest stars Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen for the entire fourth quarter.

That loss was among many that sent the Knicks to the bottom of the Atlantic and seemed to put coach Isiah Thomas' job in jeopardy, but his team has suddenly put together wins in four of its last five games.

That stretch began with an 89-65 victory over Central Division-leading Detroit, which came within one point of the lowest total in franchise history. The Knicks' most recent victory handed former coach Pat Riley the worst losing streak of his career, sending Miami to its 13th straight loss with an 88-84 win Friday.

It was the fourth game in five days for New York, which bounced back from a 111-98 loss at Washington the previous night.

"That just goes to show the resiliency of our team," said Knicks forward David Lee, who had 15 points and eight rebounds. "We've been able to battle back."

Keying the Knicks' surge has been Jamal Crawford, who has averaged 24.0 points over the last eight games while going 25-of-57 from 3-point range (43.9 percent).

The Celtics were the ones struggling early last week with losses in three of four games after losing just three times in their first 32 contests. However, Boston has bounced back to win its last two games - both at home by double digits.

The Celtics overcame a 12-point deficit in the first half and limited Philadelphia to 32 second-half points in a 116-89 win Friday.

"We played with a lot more passion, especially in the third quarter, the fourth quarter," said Pierce, who scored 14 of his 22 points in the final period.

Allen had 10 of his 23 points in the fourth, two days after scoring 26 of his season-high 35 points in the second half of a win over Portland.

Boston hopes to get back starting point guard Rajon Rondo, who has missed two straight games and three of the last four with a bruised back and sore hamstring. Eddie House started the last two games in his place, averaging 12.5 points and 4.5 assists.

Boston has won 11 of the past 14 meetings with the Knicks, including four straight at MSG. The Celtics are 10-2 in New York since the start of the 2001-02 season.


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