Pregame notes: Buzz in NYC

NEW YORK -- Celtics coach Doc Rivers is no stranger to the buzz that surrounds New York City when the Knicks are playing well. He felt it as a player during his time here during the early '90s and he felt it again Wednesday night when he went out to dinner with former teammate John Starks, now the alumni and fan development advisor for the Knicks.

"That was the best," Rivers said. "It's funny, I was out to dinner last night with John Starks and we were talking about that. When they're playing well, this city, you at least feel the buzz. And this is the only arena that's still alive, where you can go in and recount games that happened. You can't do that anywhere else, for the most part. I think that part, it's good. It's really good."

Still, Rivers cautioned against too much rivalry chatter and admitted that, regardless of Wednesday's outcome, there's plenty of games left to be played.

"If we put a big beating on them, they're still going to keep playing," said Rivers. "They play Miami coming up. ... If it goes the other way, I can tell you it won't do a lot for us, one way or the other. Obviously, we want to win as many games as we can, but the sad thing is, after tonight's game, no one gets a trophy. I think we understand that as much as anyone. Having said that, it's still fun to have these type of games. It's good when there's energy here."

Rivers also likes that three days of hype means he won't have to drum up a reason to get his team excited.

"I hope they’re looking forward to it. Who knows, I don’t know what our guys [think]," said Rivers. "But living in a closet the last three days, and having to hear all the talk and all that, I find that good for our team. I think they need things to challenge them and get them up, so this will be good for them."

A handful of other pregame notes:

* As expected, Shaquille O'Neal is out for Wednesday's game with a sore right calf.

* Jermaine O'Neal is in New York with the team and got in some on-court work before Wednesday's tilt. Rivers said he's getting closer to a return, but didn't set a timetable for his next step in recovering from lingering left knee soreness that has sidelined him for 15 games.

* Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni admitted this is probably the biggest game in his tenure as coach in New York and liked the atmosphere. "It's fun. It's been a while," he said with a smile. "It's what we're in this business for."

* Rivers heaped the most praise on New York's backcourt tandem of Raymond Felton and Landry Fields.

On Felton: "Felton was a huge pickup that most people missed. It didn't go unnoticed [in Boston] and I would say it didn't go unnoticed in Charlotte, either. He's an aggressive scorer and the most important part about Felton is how competitive he is. He's the most competitive player on that team each night. That doesn't mean he played well, but give me the guy that competes each night. That's Kevin [Garnett] -- not the size and the skill -- but he competes. Competitive people make teams better."

On Fields: "The guy that no one ever talks about is Fields. What he’s doing for their team -- guarding [the opposition's] best guard every night -- and they don't run a lot of stuff for him, yet he still scores. It's rare that a rookie understands his role, quite honestly, and I think Mike and his staff, they’ve done an amazing job. And he doesn’t complain about it, he just goes out and does his job."

Chris Forsberg/ESPN Boston

A look inside Madison Square Garden before Wednesday's showdown.