BOSTON — One of the tougher things for an NBA team to do is come off the road after a long trip and play that first game at home.
That’s what the Celtics will try to deal with when they host the New York Knicks on Wednesday night as Boston plays the first of three straight games at TD Garden.
The Celtics went 2-2 on their four-game trip, defeating the Los Angeles Clippers and Denver Nuggets and losing to the Lakers and Golden State Warriors. The losses were by a total of five points and Monday’s win at Denver was a one-point decision.
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They are 2-5 in their last seven games and their guards are banged up, but survived the high altitude and escaped Denver — barely.
“I thought we were gassed at the end of the game,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said after the win raised Boston’s record to 36-15. “We missed some defensive assignments, and I thought we missed some good opportunities on offense, but they found a way.”
Now they host the Knicks in the third meeting of the season between the old rivals. Each has held serve at home in the two games played this season.
The Celtics beat the Knicks 110-89 in Boston on Oct. 24, while the Knicks rode 32 bench points from Michael Beasley to a 102-93 victory at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 21.
The Knicks, playing for the first time at home after going 3-4 in seven straight road games, completed a four-game series sweep of the Brooklyn Nets with a 111-95 win Tuesday that left them three games away from the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot.
Enes Kanter, who had 19 rebounds in the game in Boston earlier this season, delivered 20 points, 20 rebounds and five assists Tuesday.
After the game, Kanter, asked about the possibility of replacing the injured Kevin Love on the LeBron James All-Star team, laughed and said, “I might ask for a trade. If it happens, it happens. If not, I’ll go to break. I’m going to cheer for KP.”
KP is first-time All-Star Kristaps Porzingis, who scored 28 points — including a career-high six 3-pointers — Tuesday night. He has had a terrible time with the Celtics this season. He has gone 3-for-25 from the floor, 0 of 5 from 3-point range, in the two games. In nine career games against the Celtics, he is averaging 14.4 points and 6.3 rebounds.
In 18 career outings against the Knicks, Kyrie Irving is averaging 24.9 points and 5.4 assists. He is also averaging 24.9 points per game in his first season with the Celtics, and will likely again hear chants of “M-V-P” from the TD Garden crowd Wednesday night.
The Celtics are without Marcus Smart, who suffered a hand laceration smacking a picture frame in his Los Angeles hotel room, and fellow guards Mike Rozier (ankle) and Shane Larkin (knee) are battling injuries (Larkin was out Monday).
Irving is also banged up (but playing) and Boston has recalled guard Kadeem Allen to provide depth.
Knicks bench player Ron Baker suffered a shoulder injury Tuesday night. X-rays were negative but he will not be in Boston on Wednesday. Joakim Noah, who left the team late in the trip over frustration with Hornacek, will not play.