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Rapid Reaction: Knicks' 2011-12 schedule

Knicks' schedule

OPENING DAY OPPONENT: The New York Knicks will face the Boston Celtics at noon on Christmas Day to tip off the shortened 66-game season.

Boston swept New York in the first round of the playoffs last year, beating the Knicks by an average of 14 points in the two playoff games at the Garden.

Can the Mike D'Antoni's club make things more competitive in the season opener? This game will be a good early measuring stick for Knicks team expecting to contend in the Eastern Conference.

MUST-SEE MATCHUPS

Knicks vs. Magic, Jan. 16: There's no guarantee that Dwight Howard will be with the Orlando Magic by the time they come to town. But if he is, the free-agent-to-be will have plenty of support among Knicks fans who covet his services. Should make for an interesting atmosphere. Barring a trade, Howard will be back in town March 28.

Knicks vs. Nuggets, Jan. 21: Carmelo Anthony doesn't get the chance to go back to Denver, but ex-Knicks Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov and (maybe) Wilson Chandler come back to the Garden. All three were dealt in the Anthony trade in February. Chandler is currently playing in China and might be prohibited from returning to the NBA until later in the season.

Knicks vs. Lakers, Feb. 10: Not all Western Conference teams will come to New York, but Kobe Bryant & Co. will visit on this date. Reports state that the Los Angeles Lakers are in the market for Howard and Chris Paul, so the Lake Show may bring even more star power than usual.

Knicks vs. Hornets, Feb. 17: Will Paul still be a New Orleans Hornet on this date? Or will he be playing for the Knicks -- or somebody else? Rumors about Paul's departure from the Hornets have been swirling for weeks. New York is reportedly his preferred destination, but there are plenty of suitors.

Knicks vs. Heat, April 15: LeBron James says he doesn't want to play the "villain" role anymore, but he won't be able to avoid it on this night. James will be making his third trip to the Garden since spurning the Knicks [and others] to form a big three with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. This matchup is Game No. 60 of the season, so it could have serious playoff implications. The Knicks travel to Miami on Jan. 27 and Feb. 23.

OTHERS: Aside from the opener, the Knicks play the Celtics in Boston on Feb. 3 and March 4 and host them on April 17. These teams always seem to play at least one classic each regular season. ... MVP Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls come to town on Feb. 2 and April 8. The Knicks travel to Chicago on March 12 and April 10. ... The Knicks host the New Jersey Nets on Feb. 4 and Feb. 20 and travel to Newark on April 18. ... New Jersey native and No. 1 pick Kyrie Irving brings his Cavs to the Garden on Feb. 29 and March 31. ... Bronx native Charlotte first-round pick Kemba Walker makes his Garden debut -- as an NBA player -- on Jan. 4.

TOUGHEST STRETCH: The Knicks play on three consecutive nights from Feb. 2-4. They open the back-to-back-to-back with a home game against Rose and the Bulls. They head to Boston the next night and then host the Nets. In all, they play five games in seven nights during that stretch.

The Knicks also have four four-game-in-five-night stretches and travel to Boston, Dallas and San Antonio from March 4 to March 7.

EASIEST STRETCH: The Knicks have a soft stretch from Feb. 11 to Feb. 18. On Feb. 11 -- the day after they host the Lakers -- the Knicks travel to Minnesota. After two days off, they play in Toronto. They come home to face Sacramento the next night. After a day off, they then host New Orleans, followed by another day off. The travel may pose a problem in this stretch, but the opponents should not.

WHO'S MISSING: The Knicks will play 48 games against conference opponents and 18 against the Western Conference, so some teams won't be making the trip to MSG. The Knicks won't have the opportunity to welcome Brooklyn native and former St. John's standout Mark Jackson back to the NBA. Jackson is in his first season coaching the Warriors, who don't come to the Garden this season. Also, Kevin Durant and the upstart Oklahoma City Thunder won't be coming to town. Lastly, the Knicks will not play all Atlantic Division foes four times due to the shortened schedule.

BASKETBALL NEVER STOPS: With 66 games spread over four months, this schedule will be a grind for the Knicks (and everyone else). Teams will average 3.9 games/week, up from usual 3.5 games/week, which works out to about two extra games per month.

In addition, the Knicks will play 21 back-to-backs this season. They played 21 back-to-backs last season. But those were, of course, spread out over 82 games.

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