Their schedule, as Kenny Anderson put it, is "about to get crazy." Beginning today, the Celticsplay eight games in the next two weeks, six on the road.
Your body tends to groan toward the end of a stretch like that. It helps to have a team with depth. That finally appears to be happening for the Celtics. Ron Mercer may have sat out last night's game against the Knicks with an ankle sprain, but the guard is not expected to miss much time. And Rick Pitino can start thinking about his coveted pressing unit again because Walter McCarty is ready to return from a toe injury. The team is expecting the 6-foot-10-inch McCarty to be ready to play at Cleveland Tuesday.
"He looks very good," Pitino said of McCarty. "I thought it was going to take longer for him to come back. I thought it would take a while to get him in shape, but he's in pretty good shape. And his toe, it seems like he's over that completely."
McCarty's return means that Dwayne Schintzius will probably go on the injured list. It also means that McCarty will probably lead a unit that calls itself The Bomb Squad, led by pressers Bruce Bowen, Dana Barros, and McCarty.
After making a third-quarter 3-pointer, Pierce seemed to be doing some secret gesture with his hand. What exactly was it? "I was waving goodbye to the ball," he said. "And then I was waving to the fans." At one point, Pierce also made sure he got the attention of former NBA star and current TNT analyst Reggie Theus. "I was joking with him and telling him I" - and not him - "was the best player to come out of Inglewood (Calif.) High," Pierce said . . . Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy did not appear for his postgame press briefing. Assistant coach Don Chaney substituted. "He isn't doing well at all," Chaney said. "We think it's a stomach virus. It took its toll [ last night] . He has chills." . . . Former University of Massachusetts star Marcus Camby led all players with six blocked shots, but Bowen had the block of the night, swatting away an Allan Houston dunk attempt . . . Maybe the New York point guards made their coach sick. Charlie Ward and Chris Childs combined for 11 turnovers and seven assists.
Van Gundy said before the game that he was worried about his team's performance. He said he was concerned the Knicks could play like they did in Cleveland, when they were humiliated by the Cavaliers. "I feel sorry for him," Pitino said, smirking. "Without Ron Mercer, he's thinking we're the Lakers. I know Jeff. He probably looks at Bruce [ Bowen] and sees Kobe Bryant." Pitino was asked who would play the role of Shaquille O'Neal. "Shaq is Eric Riley," he said. Pitino doesn't mind applying the needle to Van Gundy. The Knicks coach was a graduate assistant for Pitino at Providence College in the mid-1980s . . . Anderson, who is from Queens, N.Y., said he used to get excited playing against the Knicks. Not anymore. "But that trade almost went down last year," he said. That was when Anderson was briefly a Raptor and the team considered dealing him to the New Yorkers. "I didn't know how I felt about it," he said. "I didn't know if I was ready to play basketball at home. Anyway, I like it here." . . . Pitino said he would consider playing Antoine Walker at small forward, but he is not in good enough shape yet . . . In the Mild Surprise Department, Latrell Sprewell shot free throws before the game and was not heckled. The New York guard, who is injured, was suspended for 68 games last season for choking his former coach, P.J. Carlesimo.