Novak drained eight 3-pointers, one more than teammate J.R. Smith, as the Knicks took a 21-point lead and held on to snap Boston's two-game win streak.
Paul Pierce's season-high 43 points went to waste in the victory.
With Philadelphia's loss to the Pacers, the Celtics still need one win or one Sixers loss to clinch the Atlantic Division title and a top-four playoff seed.
Fourth quarter, 2:03, Knicks 118-108: Steve Novak is the greatest shooter in the history of everything. If you disagree, you clearly were not watching this game.
True, that's a massive exaggeration, but it did not seem like it after Novak drained his eighth 3-pointer to crush Boston's comeback hopes. For some inexplicable reason, Rondo left Novak as Novak drifted outside behind a screen. If Rondo expected help, it was not part of the game plan, because Pierce turned his head as Novak fired and had an expression that said, "Why is this guy so open?"
Fourth quarter, 3:37, Knicks 112-104: Bradley and Pavlovic continued to defend the perimeter ferociously, which might be the only reason the Celtics were still in this game.
That, and Pierce simply refusing to miss.
Pierce was 11-for-19 from the field for a season-high 41 points, leading the charge for the Celtics to possibly steal one. This would be up there with Boston's best comebacks this season considering how hot the Knicks have been from downtown.
Fourth quarter, 8:31, Knicks 103-92: The scouting report on Pavlovic is that he is a physical and heady on-ball defender. The officials did not appear to know this, however, as they called Pavlovic for three questionable fouls as he jockeyed for position with Anthony. To Pavlovic's credit, he did not stop defending and forced Anthony into a missed shot and to dribble off his own foot.
The Celtics have not been able to crack the Knicks, despite repeatedly pulling back within striking distance. Neither team had scored since Pierce knocked down a three at the 9:43 mark. With more than eight minutes left in regulation, Pierce had 37 points.
End of third quarter, Knicks 96-84: Pierce scored 17 of the Celtics' 31 points in the third quarter as the Celtics whittled away at a lead that was as large as 21 points.
Bass also had a big quarter with seven points on 3-for-4 shooting. Rondo left the game after landing on his tailbone and got some treatment — it looked like stretching and heat — on the baseline to get back into the game.
Rondo is something else. The Celtics trailed by 19 points at halftime, yet instead of taking it easy for Wednesday's game, he was trying to get a quick tune-up to check back in against the Knicks.
Third quarter, 2:02, Knicks 90-77: Just like that, it was back down to a 10-point game. The Knicks quickly built on that lead, but the Celtics were quietly chipping away at what seemed to be an insurmountable deficit.
Pierce was up to 26 points for the game, with 14 points coming in the third quarter. This one is not yet over.
Third quarter, 7:49, Knicks 81-64: The Celtics couldn't stop the Knicks, but the Knicks did not seem very interested in stopping the Celtics, either. Despite the 3-point barrage, the Celtics were able to pull within 14 points early in the second half.
Rondo hit the deck hard after drawing contact, but not drawing a foul. He appeared to land on his tailbone, but that is an entirely amateur diagnosis.
Halftime, Knicks 72-53: Well, then. The Celtics scored 79 points in the entire game in the loss in Toronto on Friday. The Knicks had 72 points in the first half in this one.
The Celtics shot 54 percent from the field, normally a good mark but nothing compared to the Knicks' blistering 63 percent. The Knicks shot 14-for-21 (67 percent) from beyond the arc in the first half.
The Celtics bench had zero points. The Knicks bench had 39 points. We could go on, but we'll spare you more grisly details.
The Good: Carmelo Anthony played with Paul Pierce and whoever else was guarding him. Anthony scored 19 points on 8-for-11 shooting, grabbed five rebounds and had six assists. … J.R. Smith rained 3-pointers, seven to be exact (seven!) in nine attempts. Steve Novak only had four, so Knicks coach Mike Woodson probably told him to stop slacking off. … Tyson Chandler only had six points, but his influence was major in the first half. Garnett and Bass could not leave Chandler, who is a great finisher, so when one came over to help on dribble drives, the other had to rotate to cover Chandler. That opened up Novak, Smith and everyone else for kick-out treys.
The Bad: The Celtics defense was a mess, from top to bottom.
The So-so: Avery Bradley and Rajon Rondo combined to go 9-for-11 from the field for 25 points, with Rondo adding nine assists. But until they figure out a way to cut down on some of New York's perimeter looks, none of those individual stats matter.
Second quarter, 2:22, Knicks 63-43: The Celtics' defensive rotations look all fouled up. They just can't seem to get to the Knicks' shooters before the Knicks fire up another 3-pointer. Bradley got caught twice, once on a blind-side screen that freed up Smith for a trey and then Bradley challenged Novak too aggressively, committing the Cardinal sin of fouling a 3-point shooter. Novak dropped the three and the foul shot.
Second quarter, 4:51, Knicks 54-35: Mike Bibby hit a 3, which basically proved the Knicks were cheating. Somebody check the replay to see if they catch his up, up, down, left, right, A, B, A, A, Start to put in a cheat code before the game.
The Knicks drilled six of seven 3-point attempts in the first seven minutes of the second quarter, building a 19-point lead. Smith had three of the triples with Anthony, Novak and Bibby adding the other three.
There was not much the Celtics could do. The Knicks simply did not miss.
Pierce came back in, so that was good news, but it was about the only good news for Boston.
Second quarter, 9:07, Knicks 40-26: Not only did Pierce head to the bench, but Smith appeared to be on his game. And when Smith is on his game, he's almost as good as he thinks he is.
Smith drained two 3-pointers in the second quarter to double his scoring output for the game. The Celtics, who countered with Sasha Pavlovic, Keyon Dooling and Marquis Daniels with Garnett and Bradley, did not seem to be equipped to stop the Knicks.
End of first quarter, Knicks 32-26: Pierce turned his left ankle, and that could be trouble. He immediately asked to be taken out of the game and appeared to take off his sneaker as soon as he sat down.
First quarter, 1:51, Celtics 26-24: Celtics coach Doc Rivers does some seemingly crazy things that work sometimes, but having Bass guard J.R. Smith is a move that seemed pretty crazy.
The athletic 6-foot-6 guard made the Celtics pay by drilling a 3 over the 6-foot-8 power forward. The Knicks had a lineup that made it tough to put Bass anywhere — Davis and Shumper shared the court with Smith in a three-guard set, with Anthony at small forward — but the Knicks were clearly quicker and able to spread the Celtics' defense. That might not be so bad if Garnett is back there directing things, but Greg Stiemsma was not quite at that level.
First quarter, 4:19, Celtics 20-17: Bradley covering Baron Davis is really not a fair fight. At this point in his career, Davis is a serviceable player to bring up the ball and run the offense, but little else. Bradley was all over Davis in the early going, and it will only get worse for Davis, who showed up for the season out of shape and whose knees aren't getting any younger.
The Knicks did not look like they were prepared to play, yet they managed to keep it close and even take a four-point lead. If not for some defensive breakdowns by Bass and Bradley, the Celtics could be up by a half-dozen at least.
First quarter, 10:07, Celtics 8-2: The backcourt that purportedly cannot shoot looked pretty good in the opening minutes. Rondo knocked down a 3-pointer from the elbow and Bradley hit one of those corner threes he is becoming so good at shooting to give the Celtics a quick lead.
7:55 p.m.: We'll have both eyes focused on this game, but we'll have one eye also trained on the Sixers and Pacers in Philadelphia. (For those of you scoring at home, that's three eyes. We've pulled out all the stops for the stretch run.)
It should go without saying that beating the Knicks would be a coup for the Celtics, but it would have practical implications if the Pacers beat the Sixers. A combination of a Celtics win and Sixers loss clinches the Atlantic Division for the Celtics, along with the fourth seed.
To repeat, as we have for the last few weeks, that DOES NOT MEAN the Celtics clinch home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Home court in the NBA always goes to the team with the best record, regardless of seed.
7:12 p.m.: Well, the party to celebrate Ray Allen's return did not last long. After coach Doc Rivers reportedly said Tuesday morning that Allen would play against the Knicks, the shooting guard apparently is out after all.
Mickael Pietrus is also out with a sore knee, according to multiple reports, so the Celtics will be shorthanded, although not as quite as shorthanded as they were Sunday.
Knicks center Tyson Chandler, who tweaked his knee late in Sunday's game against the Heat, is reportedly going to give it a go. Amare Stoudemire will miss his 12th game with a bulging disc in his back, but reports say that Stoudemire could be targeting a Friday comeback.
The probable starting lineups appear below.
8 a.m.: Being separated by 4 1/2 games in the standings probably will not be enough to put a damper on this rivalry.
The Celtics (36-25), winners of 11 of their last 14 games, make a visit to the city that never sleeps to take on the Knicks (31-29) on Tuesday. New York is playing for its playoff survival, as it holds only a two-game lead over ninth-place Milwaukee for the final playoff spot.
The Celtics, meanwhile, have to keep winning to stay ahead of Orlando and Atlanta in the standings. While Boston appears to be locked into the fourth seed, they would not hold home-court advantage if their first-round opponent has a superior record. After wins on Monday night, both the Magic and the Hawks had identical records to the Celtics.
Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are expected to be back in uniform after taking a mental health day Sunday. The Celtics will probably need all the help they can get against the Knicks, who lost for the first time in 10 home games on Sunday.
Join us for updates and analysis during the game, which is scheduled to tip off at 8 p.m. ET.