Stoudemire is the key
Celtics’ turn to try to stop Knicks star
WALTHAM — At least one streak will end tonight at Madison Square Garden in New York. The Celtics have a 10-game winning streak, the Knicks an eight-gamer. And if the Celtics defeat the Knicks, they might have to put an end to another streak — Amar’e Stoudemire’s.
Stoudemire has scored at least 30 points in eight straight games, averaging 33.8 per game, starting with a 37-point output in a 125-116 double overtime victory over Detroit Nov. 28. That started the Knicks on their longest winning streak since 1994.
Stoudemire has shot 108 for 185 from the field and 55 for 62 from the line during the streak.
So, will the Celtics make defensive adjustments for Stoudemire?
“Not anything, really,’’ coach Doc Rivers said yesterday. “Whoever we start at center will guard him. Whoever starts at center will post him. So, we won’t do much different.’’
Unless Shaquille O’Neal recovers from a calf injury, Semih Erden will start at center. The Celtics likely will go with Glen Davis and Kevin Garnett in the frontcourt to match up with the small, up-tempo lineup of the Knicks.
“Obviously, there will be times when Baby [Davis] and Kevin are on the floor together, and that will be an effective lineup for us,’’ Rivers said.
The Knicks, though, have been winning even without 30-point outputs from Stoudemire, going 13-1 since Nov. 16.
“They’re going to him a lot and he’s a good offensive player, he always has been,’’ Rivers said of Stoudemire. “And he’s attacking the basket. One thing he’s doing more is he’s just putting the ball on the floor and scoring off the dribble — and when you’re at the ‘5’ doing that, that’s difficult.
“They’re winning because they’re all playing well, they’re not winning because Stoudemire is playing well. They’re winning because Stoudemire’s teammates are playing well, as well.’’
Rivers did not rule out O’Neal, who has missed the last two games because of an injured right calf.
“We’re going to see what he can do . . . if he’s good he’ll play and if he’s not we’ll sit him,’’ Rivers said.
The Celtics held a short practice yesterday afternoon before traveling to New York.
“We’re winning games,’’ Rivers said. “I don’t necessarily think we’re playing great, to be honest, over the last couple games, at least. Defensively, in the Charlotte game [a 93-62 victory], we were really good. But it’s just, when you have so many different guys [injured] . . . it would almost be easier if it was always one guy.
“You lose practice time . . . I can see the slippage in us, in the way we’re playing. So, at some point, we either start fixing it with our guys or it’s going to come back and get us a little bit.’’
The Celtics have not lost since a 102-101 decision at Toronto Nov. 21. The win against Charlotte Saturday night was the Celtics’ fifth consecutive road victory.
“New York is playing well, they’re in our division, both teams are streaking, it’s going to be an exciting game,’’ forward Paul Pierce said. “At the end of the day, we always say it’s about us, it’s about getting better, whether we win or lose, not taking any steps back.
“We’ve had inconsistencies during the winning streak which we’re trying to clean up and get better at because, at the end of the day, we’re playing for the championship, not against certain opponents. The one thing I do worry about is, we’ve got a good chemistry going on right now, and when the guys that are injured, when they come back, how it’s going to affect that. Hopefully, it’ll make us better.’’
As for the streaks, Pierce said, “We know we’ve won 10 games — it’s nothing we haven’t done before, we’ve been on a 10-game win streak. But we’ve got bigger goals than winning streaks.
“They’re [Knicks] playing with a lot more confidence. It usually goes that way, when you win games you start feeling good about yourself, guys are really playing well.
“Stoudemire has really stepped up his game and become a true leader, along with Raymond Felton. I think that was the thing they were lacking, someone who is going to be vocal in the locker room. Each year they have talented players, but it’s about everybody being on the same page.’’
Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at email@example.com.