An NBA championship showed just how good the Boston Celtics can be with Kevin Garnett in their lineup. On Tuesday night, they can prove what kind of team they are without their star forward.
With Garnett serving a one-game suspension, the Eastern Conference-leading Celtics seek their seventh straight victory over the New York Knicks on Tuesday night at TD Banknorth Garden.
Garnett will sit out after being suspended for hitting Milwaukee's Andrew Bogut in the face near the end of Boston's 102-97 overtime win on Saturday. Garnett missed two of his team's four wins over the Knicks last season, including one in April when Paul Pierce and Ray Allen also sat out to rest for the playoffs.
Boston (9-2) hopes to take advantage of some extra rest after having played its eighth game in 12 days on Saturday.
While the Celtics didn't show signs of fatigue down the stretch, Saturday's win was far from easy as they went three minutes without scoring between the fourth quarter and overtime until Pierce hit a 3-pointer to put Boston ahead 96-95. Pierce and Allen hit all six of their free throws in the final minute to put the game away.
"It was touch and go for a moment there because we couldn't score," Allen said. "We couldn't get in a rhythm, but Paul got going and the free throw line saved us in overtime."
Pierce finished with 28 points, seven rebounds and six assists while Allen scored 27 as the Celtics bounced back from a 94-85 loss to Denver one night earlier.
Pierce is averaging 29.3 points in his last four overall games, and has averaged 23.0 points in his last three home games against the Knicks (6-4).
Unlike last season, New York hopes to take advantage of Garnett's absence as it tries to snap a six-game losing streak against the Celtics, including a three-game skid in Boston.
New York is off to its best 10-game start since 2000-01, when it also won six of its first 10 games. The Knicks, who haven't made the playoffs since 2004, tied a franchise record with 59 losses last season.
"They're putting a ton of points on the board so we're going to have to have a hell of a defensive night," Celtics coach Doc Rivers told his team's official Web site.
Under first-year coach Mike D'Antoni, the Knicks have embraced his high-scoring system. They lost 124-114 in overtime to Dallas on Sunday, though, giving up a season-high in points while failing to protect a seven-point lead with 3 1/2 minutes remaining.
Zach Randolph had 27 points and 18 rebounds while Quentin Richardson scored 17.
New York led by as many as 15 points in the first half but the Knicks' offense went cold late, going 0-for-14 after Richardson's basket with 2:28 remaining in regulation until Chris Duhon hit two free throws with 2:50 left for their only points in overtime.
"We could have won the game," Randolph said. "We had a chance to win the game. But the ball won't fall for us. There's nights like this. We've just got to keep our head up and keep going."
Randolph, who has a double-double in eight straight games, is averaging 20.8 points and a team-best 12.9 rebounds this season. Randolph, however, has struggled in his last five games against the Celtics, averaging 14.4 points while shooting 26-of-66 (39.3 percent) from the field.
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