It's not a big surprise that the Boston Celtics are the hottest team in the league. What is a shock is that the New York Knicks aren't far behind.
Boston goes for an 11th consecutive victory Wednesday night as it heads into Madison Square Garden looking to halt the Knicks' longest winning streak in more than 16 years.
"They're probably going to be extremely fired up for this game and I'm hoping our guys can match that intensity," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "Any time a game has energy, it's great. It's really great for us because finding ways to get them up is always nice when you don't have to do it."
With Dallas having its 12-game run snapped Monday, no team is on a longer win streak than the Celtics (19-4). Their stretch of 10 consecutive victories is one shy of their longest winning streak from all of last season.
New York (16-9) is on its longest run since taking 15 in a row March 1-April 2, 1994. The Knicks have won eight in a row as Amare Stoudemire has set a franchise record for consecutive 30-point games by reaching that mark in each victory.
While a long win streak might be expected of Boston, the reigning Eastern Conference champion which won the NBA title in 2008, New York hasn't even been to the playoffs since 2004. The Knicks, who didn't post more than four straight victories last season, have won 13 of 14.
"We have confidence. We know how good we can be. We see the room for improvement," Stoudemire said. "We can get better. We have confidence that we can win. Every game is a different story. We just have to make sure we are ready to go and play smart."
This matchup is by far the toughest challenge for the Knicks in weeks. Only three opponents among their last 14 currently have winning records.
"They obviously have won a championship a couple of years prior, went to the finals last year, so they're hands-down the team to beat in the East," Stoudemire said.
Among East teams, the Celtics have the best record overall and on the road at 9-3. They're allowing 91.0 points per game, tied with Miami for best in the league, and just 86.1 during the win streak.
"We're finding ways to win and we're doing it with defense," Kevin Garnett said.
New York is scoring a league-leading 108.5 per game, including 114.5 during its win streak as Stoudemire has averaged 33.9 points and 10.9 rebounds.
His 30-point streak will be put to the test against Garnett and possibly Shaquille O'Neal, who is optimistic he'll return after missing the last two games with a calf injury.
Rivers' team is still missing big men Kendrick Perkins and Jermaine O'Neal due to knee problems.
"Doc does a great job of managing the old, antique cars," the 38-year-old O'Neal said.
The Celtics have kept winning despite the struggles of Paul Pierce, averaging 10.8 points in the last four games on 31.6 percent shooting. He's missed his last 16 3-point attempts.
The eight-time All-Star made four 3-pointers and had 25 points in Boston's 105-101 home win over the Knicks on Oct. 29, the teams' only meeting this season. Garnett added 24 points while Stoudemire led New York with 27.
Stoudemire had 30 points as the Knicks defeated Denver 129-125 on Sunday. He scored a season low-tying six points in the first half, but went 11 of 15 from the floor over the final 24 minutes.
"He's balling this season, nobody's stopping him," Nuggets forward Nene said.
New York has lost 13 of 15 against Boston. The Knicks did win the last meeting at MSG, 104-101 on April 6 behind Danilo Galinari's 31 points. He was 0 for 6 from the field with two points in the October loss to the Celtics.
Pierce has averaged 26.2 points in the last six meetings.