You'll excuse me if I join Paul Pierce and many others in laughing off this whole "rivalry" business. The last time these teams were rivals was before I started watching basketball, so I don't have much of a point of reference (Bernard who?).
Instead, I'd like to look at this year's team for what it is. An interesting (maybe even fun) team that creates statistical anomalies because of their style of play. Let's look at a few items from box scores over the early part of this year.
- Oct 29: Rajon Rondo dishes out 24 assists AND a triple double
- Nov 12: Kevin Love has first 30 - 30 game in 28 years (31 pts, 31 rebounds)
- Nov 19: Monta Ellis scores 40 (and Raymond Felton scored 35)
- Nov 20: Rookie Blake Griffin scores 44 and grabs 15 rebounds to boot
- Dec 8: Andrea Bargnani scores 41
This is what the Knicks do playing in D'Antoni's system. The thing is, it is starting to work. The first two games listed above were losses for the Knicks, but the following three were all wins. They give up a lot of points but they also score a lot. Not unlike the :07 Seconds or Less Suns of old.
That is the only thing that concerns me about this game. D'Antoni's teams are good at making teams get out of their comfort zone and playing into their style of play. The inflated box scores are so inviting that a team can lose focus of what they do well and before you know it they are down with 5 minutes to go and they don't know how it got that way.
With that said, I'm not too worried about the Celtics legs at the moment. They've been given ample rest to get up for this game. They've even had a chance to watch game film, so they should be coached up pretty well. The team might be a little rusty but they shouldn't have any trouble getting motivated (rivalry talk, streaks, etc.).
I'm thinking something fun is going to happen tonight. Maybe Big Baby will set a record for most drawing the charges in a game. Or Ray Allen will break the record for most 3's in a game (shocked he doesn't have it already - he needs to take it from Kobe). Or maybe Erden will break out for 30 points and 10 rebounds.
Or perhaps the Celtics will simply play their game, spread the wealth around, and efficiently pick the Knicks apart with stifling defense and opportunistic offense. They just need to stay focused and do what they do best. ...and of course a triple double from Rondo would be fun too.