The Celtics are mired in their second four-game losing streak in less than a month and could be staring down an 0-for-5 hole with the rival New York Knicks in town Thursday night at TD Garden.
Thursday will mark the first matchup between the two teams since the Jan. 7 matchup that turned somewhat ugly. Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Garnett battled all game, received matching technical fouls, then went off after a Celtics road win.
Anthony was seen waiting for Garnett by the Celtics team bus. Video footage showed the two still exchanging words and having to be separated by a large throng of security people.
The two claimed to have worked things out, but that could be put to the test on Thursday.
The Celtics' losing streak continued with a 95-90 setback at Cleveland on Tuesday as Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving lit up the scoreboard for 40 points, including 11 of the team's final 13 points.
"It's no secret who they're going to when the game gets tight -- it's Kyrie (Irving). There are a lot of great guards, but he's probably the best scoring point guard in the league," Celtics forward Paul Pierce said. "There is really no scorer like him at that position."
Rajon Rondo scored a team-best 17 points to go along with 13 rebounds and eight assists, while Garnett tallied 16 points and Pierce ended with only 12 on 3-for-15 shooting for Boston, which also lost four in a row from Dec. 27- Jan. 2 and hasn't sustained five consecutive losses since last Feb. 15-22.
Celtics rookie forward Jared Sullinger added a double-double with 12 points and 10 boards. Sullinger is averaging 8.7 points and 8.4 rebounds over the last 13 games. Boston's current slide come on the heels of a six-game winning streak, and it has failed to score 100-plus points during the skid.
In milestone news, Pierce is seven assists shy of tying Bill Russell (4,100) for fourth on the team's all-time list.
The Celtics will play seven of their next nine games at home, where they are 13-8 this season and have dropped two in a row.
New York hasn't been exactly lights-out either, having lost four of its last six games, and had a two-game winning streak stopped with an 88-85 setback versus the Brooklyn Nets Monday at Madison Square Garden. Joe Johnson scored 25 points, including the go-ahead jumper with 22.3 seconds left in the game.
Anthony scored a game-high 29 points, while J.R. Smith and Amare Stoudemire chipped in 16 and 15 points, respectively, for the Knicks. Anthony missed a shot at the end and knew he should have made it.
"I don't make no excuses," Anthony said. "I should've made the shot. I don't know what to say about that."
Anthony is still one of the league leaders in points with 29.2 ppg.
The Knicks will also visit Philadelphia on their two-game trek and are 11-8 outside of Madison Square Garden this season. After visiting the 76ers on Saturday, New York will return home for five straight games versus Atlanta, Orlando, Milwaukee, Sacramento and Detroit.
New York lost the first of four meetings with Boston by a 102-96 score on Jan. 7 in the Big Apple. The Celtics were without Rondo, but Pierce amassed 23 points on 10-of-18 shooting and Garnett added 19 points with 10 rebounds in that one. Boston has won 19 of the last 23 matchups in this series.
The Knicks have struggled lately as the visitor in this series, losing 11 straight, 14 of 16 and 18 of their last 22 trips to Beantown.