In the past decade, the New York-Boston rivalry has shifted sports. For the majority of the decade it was the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry that captivated fans, but that soon faded as the animosity between the two cities centered around the Jets and Patriots.
All the while, the rivalry as old as the NBA itself was brushed to the side. But as soon as a few years ago you could sense its slow resurgence.
Still, Paul Pierce fought it, saying that he "didn't know we had a rivalry going." (via ESPN Boston).
Little did we know that right after he made this comment, he would put some kindling under the fire starting between the Knicks and Celtics by hitting a game-winner then bowing for the crowd at MSG.
Suddenly, the rivalry felt more real.
There were still doubters, though. The Knicks remained a small threat to the Celtics' dominance in the Atlantic Division.
And while they couldn't make the Celtics sweat it out in the Atlantic last season, the rivalry still managed to soar to unimaginable heights.
Throughout the season, no two teams produced more exciting games than the Knicks and Celtics. In the four games they played, each game was decided by an average of four points. More importantly, though, each game featured at least one out-of-this-world performance.
The NBA returned after the lockout with the Celtics and Knicks on Christmas Day, and it was a good choice. It came down to the wire with KG choking at the end—on the shot and Bill Walker—and the Knicks prevailing 106-104.
And with the end of the game as the main story, many people forgot that Rajon Rondo put up monster numbers (31 points, 13 assists, five rebounds and five steals), Brandon Bass had his best game as a Celtic (20 points, 11 rebounds, five offensive) and Carmelo Anthony outdid them all with 37 points, eight rebounds, three assists, two steals and one block.
Suddenly, the animosity, down-to-the-wire play and big-time performances were there for the rivalry to truly flourish.
This trend continued in the next game with the Celtics winning 91-89 behind Paul Pierce's 30 points.
Then, the March 4 game between the Knicks and the Celtics happened. Without exaggeration, this was the best regular-season game of 2012.
You had pregame storylines: Linsanity, the Atlantic Division still up for grabs, etc. You had the budding rivalry. And, after all of that, you had the game.
The game itself was a basketball fan's dream come true.
The Knicks' overall solid play kept them in the game the whole time and even poised to win it with five seconds left. That was, until Paul Pierce (who had 34 points and seven rebounds) hit an almost impossible contested three to send the game to overtime.
In overtime, it was all Rajon Rondo who quite literally carried the team with five points, five rebounds and two assists to not only help the Celtics win 115-111, but also pad his own jaw-dropping stat line which included 18 points, 17 rebounds and 20 assists.
It was a performance for the ages and stood as hands-down the best all-around performance of the season, until Carmelo Anthony took his best shot at beating it.
With a triple-double of his own (35 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists), Melo may have taken the crown for the best all-around performance in helping the Knicks beat the Celtics 118-110. He didn't do it alone, though; with help from Steve Novak, who hit eight three-pointers, he was able to beat the Celtics.
Though, even with his 35 points, Carmelo still wasn't the leading scorer of the game. In defeat, Paul Pierce led all scorers with a transcendent 43-point performance.
The season series ended in a tie: Celtics, two; Knicks, two.
After that, there was no more denying it: The Knicks and Celtics were rivals.
The performances, the bad blood, the close games, the proximity of cities, the bright lights versus the blue collar, the same division, those are the foundation of an NBA rivalry possibly only rivaled by the one in L.A. between the Clippers and Lakers.
And this season, the rivalry carries a different feel. All along, from Paul Pierce's denial to the Knicks winning their final tilt of the regular season, the Celtics have always been the better team.
Regardless of the talent the Knicks possessed, they were still the underdogs against the mighty Celtics, who owned the Atlantic Division.
This season, though, the shoe is on the other foot. The Knicks are the team flying high at the top of the Atlantic while the Celtics are struggling to get above .500 on the season.
However, when these two teams meet on Monday night at Madison Square Garden, you can throw the records and the standings out the window.
With both teams riding a two-game winning streak coming into their first meeting of the season, this should be no different than any of their meetings last season.
Expect anything: a triple-double from Rondo, 40 points from Carmelo Anthony, 30 from Paul Pierce, overtime, a game-winner, technical fouls. It's all on the table in this clash of rivals.
So, tune in Monday night at 7:30 p.m. ET to see the latest chapter of the Knicks-Celtics rivalry. You won't be disappointed.