The Knicks usually go streaking before a showdown with the Celtics. But unlike the first two years of the Mike D’Antoni era, the Knicks are finally sporting the right kind of streak this season.
Boston comes into the Garden winners of 10 straight, while the Knicks have won eight in row for the first time in 16 years.
“I’m fine where we are right now. We’re playing great basketball, so I don’t understand all those extra questions about ‘Are we there yet?’” said Knicks point guard Raymond Felton. “We’re 8-0 and we’re doing better than any other team in this league right now. We’re satisfied but not satisfied because we want to continue to get better.”
Perhaps Felton got caught up in the hype of a rare meaningful Knicks-Celtics game, as he failed to realize both Boston and Miami (nine in a row) are actually hotter than the surging Knicks. He can be forgiven for such rambunctiousness because it’s been a long time since the area buzzed over such a matchup between these division foes.
“We have to make our mark first before we start a rivalry. We’re just starting to regain some respect here,” said Amare Stoudemire, who has scored at least 30 points in every game during the winning streak. “We have no room to start a rivalry just yet. We have a lot of room to improve.”
Felton expects an intense Kevin Garnett tonight but also expects his team will match such bravado. They’ll have to if they want to stay in the game for four quarters.
“They’re a team that you want to get in transition because they’re one of the best teams, if not the best halfcourt defense in the league,” said Felton. “Don’t get it twisted because they are a great team. We can’t take no quarters off and can’t have a slow first quarter because they can get up by 20 on us just like that…[but] I hope they’ll be ready to play because we’ll be ready to play. They’re going to be in a dogfight, you better believe that.”
Team president Donnie Walsh tempered his enthusiasm some but is curious to see how this new-look roster handles such a hyped game.
“When you play against really good teams you kind of get a sense of seeing where you are in relation to that,” Walsh said.
D’Antoni joked about the perceived magnitude of a mid-December matchup but admitted it’s better than the alternative of a meaningless game.
“I don’t mind easy games, I’m not that big of a competitor,” D’Antoni said. “This is probably the best team, or at least playing the best right now, so it’ll be a good test for us. The Garden will be rocking.”
When reminded of the ill-fated “Dream Week” two seasons ago, when the Knicks hosted in succession – all losses — the Cleveland Cavaliers, Lakers, and Celtics, D’Antoni cringed and hoped this week would have a better outcome.
“It’s a dream for some people and a nightmare of others, depending how you look at it,” he laughed. “When teams come to the Garden they want to look good and usually the better team wins. But again, it’s early December so whatever it means, it means but it’s still a long ways to go.”