Very few things live up to their hype, but this game certainly did.
After a few days of rest, the Boston Celtics found themselves on the road in a highly anticipated matchup against the suddenly red hot New York Knicks. There was a lot of hype surrounding this game, even lending towards talk of this being a rivalry. However, according to Paul Pierce, this is not a rivalry.
Well, New York was determined to make this into one. The hometown Knicks came out strong, led by MVP candidate Amare Stoudemire. The Knicks, riding an eight-game win streak, had something to prove to everyone while the Celtics (10-game win streak coming in) simply had things to improve on.
Stoudemire came out on fire, dropping 17 points to along with 5 rebounds in the first quarter alone. New York was crashing the boards effectively throughout the first half while shooting 50.0 percent and took a 58-51 lead going into halftime thanks for a miracle three-pointer at the buzzer by Raymond Felton.
The Celtics began the third quarter on a 7-0 run; however, the Knicks quickly turned things around by forcing the Celtics to play their style of play. Sharpshooter Danilo Gallinari caught fire after not scoring at all in the in the first half.
Is Celtics vs. Knicks an NBA rivalry?
However, the Celtics would not go away without a fight. Despite playing once again without Shaquille O'Neal, the Celtics found the Knicks weakness and managed to score 62 points in the paint. Paul Pierce came out of his recent slump and carried the Celtics to a hard fought win in New York.
Rajon Rondo left the game in the fourth quarter with an apparent hamstring injury, but was able to return after a few minutes. It was evident that he was affected by the pain, but he was still able to find Boston's shooters for easy baskets, finishing the night with 14 assists.
Ray Allen continues to make timely shots for the Celtics, finishing the night with 26 points on 10-of-19 shooting, including 4-of-5 from three-point range.
The Celtics entered the fourth quarter down seven, but quickly clawed back to tie the game with 8:17 left to play. From that moment, both teams exchanged baskets and the Knicks held the lead. The defense went missing for the Celtics towards the end of as the Knicks managed to score on seven straight possessions. Boston was not so fortunate to score at such will, but managed to stay within range of the Knicks.
With a minute left to play in a tie game, Ray Allen came off a screen for an open three to give the Celtics a three-point lead.
On the next possession, Gallinari drove right at Paul Pierce, made the basket and got the foul call. The teams were tied at 116 a piece.
On the Celtics ensuing possession, Rondo turned the ball over but the Knicks went unable to score, leaving just 12 seconds in the game.
After a timeout by Boston, Paul Pierce took the inbound pass and after a switch screen, Pierce found himself guarded by Amare Stoudemire. Cue vintage Pierce. He faked the drive, stepped back and drained a jumper over the outstreched arm of Amare Stoudemire to give the Celtics the two point lead, 118-116 with 0.4 seconds left to play.
After a Knicks timeout, Stoudemire got free for a game winning three pointer, but was too late. Boston escaped with the win and Knicks look to start another winning streak.
Afterwards, Kevin Garnett had one last comment on the rivalry talk: "You have to beat somebody to have a rivalry."
The Knicks shot a blistering 53.8 percent for the game compared to the Celtics' 52.3 percent. Amare finished with 39 points and 10 rebounds.