December 11, 2014

The New York Knicks entered play Jan. 22 one-half game behind the second-place Boston Celtics in the Atlantic Division.

More than a month later, the Celtics are third in the Eastern Conference while the Knicks are third from the bottom.

A big reason for the Celtics' surge is a home winning streak they can extend to 13 by taking the season series from the lowly Knicks on Friday night.

Boston was 22-21 before beginning its current 15-4 surge with a nine-point home win over Chicago on Jan. 22. The same day, New York was 22-22 and looking for a third consecutive victory, but suffered a 116-88 defeat to the Los Angeles Clippers that began a stretch of 15 losses in 18 games.

The Celtics helped their own cause by adding to the Knicks' woes with a 97-89 victory Feb. 2.

''I don't know why," Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony said. "I don't know how, it just went downhill from there.''

While the Knicks (25-37) can't explain their extended slump, Boston's success has been highlighted by its longest home winning streak since a 13-game run in 2008-09.

The East's highest-scoring team has averaged 112.7 points in the last 12 at home, and overcame an early 12-point deficit to win 116-93 over Portland on Wednesday. Boston has yielded an average of 92.3 points and 39.7 percent shooting in the past three of a five-game homestand that ends Friday.

"We're all competitors," reserve guard Marcus Smart said. "We love to win. So we're going to find a way to go out there and compete every night."

Isaiah Thomas scored 30 with Smart and Jared Sullinger each recording 15 points and 11 rebounds for the Celtics, who can match a season high with their fifth straight win.

Even with their impressive roll, the Celtics feel they still have something to prove.

"Teams in the NBA they still don't respect us. And we know that,'' Thomas said. ''We go into every game with a chip on our shoulder and knowing that we gotta earn the respect. We gotta earn what we get and take what's ours.''

That familiar chip on the shoulder will be in place even against the Knicks, who have shot 37.4 percent and gone 10 of 39 from 3-point range in their two losses in three meetings with Boston this season. Thomas has averaged 25 points in the three, scoring 34 in a 120-114 defeat at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 12.

Anthony had 29 points in a 100-91 loss at Boston on Dec. 27, then totaled 33 in the next two matchups.

His overall frustration might have peaked during Tuesday's 104-85 loss to the Trail Blazers when he told a heckling fan at MSG to ask team chairman James Dolan for his money back. Anthony apologized for his actions.

"We are all frustrated by the team's recent results - everyone, including me, my teammates, coaches and the fans," he said. "I should not have responded the way I did.''

Following last Friday's 108-95 victory over Orlando, the Knicks averaged 83.0 points and 37.1 percent shooting in back-to-back losses to Miami and Portland. They scored 13 points in the fourth quarter Tuesday.

New York guard Arron Afflalo had four on 2-of-10 shooting at Boston in December, but scored 42 over the two home meetings.

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