BOSTON Regardless of the records, when Boston faces the New York Knicks it is usually a big game. Tonight's is no exception.
This will be the first time the two teams have faced off since the Jan. 7 "Melo-drama" incident in which Knicks All-Star Carmelo Anthony, upset with some of Kevin Garnett's in-game trash talk, initially went towards the C's locker room and later waited for Garnett by the C's team bus.
The league wound up suspending Anthony one game for his actions.
While that will certainly be a topic of discussion leading up to tonight's game, the Celtics have much bigger problems on their plate.
There's the four-game losing streak they are currently on which is equal to their longest losing skid this season.
A loss tonight by the Celtics would be just the third, five-game losing streak since Kevin Garnett arrived in Boston prior to the 2008 title run.
The two previous such skids? They came during last season's lockout-shortened season.
But the mindset of the C's right now isn't on avoiding another loss, but rather finding a way to win.
The goal now isn't all that different than what it has been all season, which is to develop some form of consistent play.
But more than that, the C's need a win ... now.
"We all understood when we came here that this was going to be a process," C's guard Jason Terry told CSNNE.com. "It's just that the process is taking a little longer than we thought it would. But it's still a process. There's a lot of season still left to play and even though we're not playing as well as we would want to be now, there's still time for us to get it going, start stringing some wins here together and position ourselves to achieve our goals."
Here are some keys to tonight's game against the Knicks who come in atop the Atlantic Division despite having lost four of their last six games which includes a home loss to the Celtics.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: All eyes will be on Kevin Garnett and Carmelo Anthony to see if there's any residual beef between them after the Jan. 7 incidents. Both have said it's done with and there won't be any issues. But with these two highly emotional players, what they say and what we see may not necessarily be one in the same.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Avery Bradley vs Iman Shumpert. Two of the best on-the-ball defenders you'll find in the NBA, it'll be interesting to see which of them will make the greatest difference in terms of impact tonight either with their defense or shot-making. Because of the players around them, chances are pretty good that both will have a decent amount of wide open to lightly contested shots for the taking.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Paul Pierce has questioned whether some of his teammates understand the sense of urgency that the C's need to have, but the Captain has to do more than talk the talk. He is in the midst of one of his usual shooting slumps, but the sooner he can snap out of it the quicker the C's recovery -- if they are to have one this season -- will begin to take shape.
STAT TO TRACK: Free throw shooting has been a major factor in the C's last four games - all losses. Not are the Celtics shooting a lower percentage (69.2 percent compared to opponents shooting 77.6 percent in the last four games), but they are not getting to the line nearly enough. How bad has it been? The C's last four opponents have made a total of 90 free throws (out of 116 attempts). In that same span, the Celtics have taken just 91 free throws (63 made).