With the Knicks pressuring on defense, Paul Pierce dribbled the ball off his knee and out of bounds, ending the Celtics’ hopes of a late game-tying shot. Knicks coach Mike Woodson made a genius move, sticking reigning Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler on Jason Terry on the perimeter. The Celtics would not have been able to get off a good shot even if Pierce had not fumbled the ball.
Carmelo Anthony scored 28 points, but J.R. Smith’s 3-pointer with 1:11 left was the nail in the coffin. Rajon Rondo recorded his 27th career triple-double with 23 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists, but even with a late scoring flurry his effort did not translate into a victory. The Celtics’ losing streak now stands at five straight games, and things do not get any easier soon. They travel to Atlanta on Friday.
Fourth quarter, :13.1, Knicks 89-86: The Celtics are kicking, barely. After Pierce and Terry fumbled a dribble handoff out of bounds, the Celtics did force a Knicks miss and Rondo drilled a jumper. Now the Celtics have the ball back with a chance to tie. Here goes nothing.
Fourth quarter, 1:11, Knicks 89-84: The Celtics could only miss so many chances and dare the Knicks to hit the dagger so many times. After three fruitless attempts to tie the game or take the lead, the Celtics finally gave Smith an inch too much room and the Knicks guard buried a three. That might be the one that sticks a fork in the Celtics.
Fourth quarter, 2:58, Knicks 86-82: Rondo must have heard us talking about his “unimpressive” triple-double, because he is showing the Knicks his full scoring arsenal now.
Rondo banked home a driving layup and buried an elbow jumper to pull Boston within two points. He then responded to a tip-in by Stoudemire by taking the ball to the hoop again to draw the foul.
Fourth quarter, 5:37, Knicks 82-76: Despite some lights-out shooting by Anthony, the Celtics have managed to muscle back within six points thanks to pushing the ball at every opportunity. The Garden crowd appreciates the effort and rose to their feet to egg on the Celtics.
When things are going well, these cheers seem enthusiastic. Right now, they just seem hopeful.
Rondo has his triple-double, with 15 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds, but this has not been an impressive performance by him by any stretch.
Fourth quarter, 10:12, Knicks 75-68: Again, little things.
The Celtics pulled within four points on a runner by Lee, then managed to force the Knicks into a missed shot on their next possession. Barbosa, who has never been known for rebounding or defense, failed to box out Pablo Prigioni.
Prigioni got a relatively easy offensive board, and the ball found Anthony for a three from the wing. Bingo, seven-point lead for the Knickerbockers.
End of third quarter, Knicks 72-66: Steve Novak has been on the court for more than 12 minutes in this game and he has yet to score. That should scare any Celtics fans. The 44 percent shooter from downtown has taken only one 3-pointer so far, and other than that the Knicks have only used him as a decoy because they have not needed his services. Yet.
Entering the final quarter, Anthony has 21 points and Pierce has 20. Tyson Chandler, who leads the league in field goal percentage but had not scored in this game, finally got in the book with a running layup leading to a three-point play and a pair of free throws when Green fouled him on an alley-oop attempt.
Third quarter, 2:13, Celtics 66-65: Terry is not having a great season shooting-wise, by his standards, but the Knicks are still concerned about him. That showed when the Knicks closed out aggressively on Terry twice, only for Terry to dish at just the right time to Lee for a midrange jumper and then Green for a corner three.
Rondo’s triple-double watch is officially on. With a little more than two minutes to go in the third quarter, Rondo has 13 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. Almost as important, he has just three turnovers.
Third quarter, 5:52, game tied 57-57: The pace has slowed down here in the third quarter, yet it does not appear to have given either team a decided advantage. Bass has been a bit more aggressive, while Rondo has attacked the hoop for a pair of baskets. But the Celtics point guard still tries to get too cute when he should just take the open shot. Rondo had a wide-open layup, but tried to toss an alley-oop behind his head to Bass. J.R. Smith easily knocked the ball away, and the TD Garden crowd rightly got on Rondo for passing up an easy two points.
Halftime, Knicks 50-48: By shoring up a few more of the little things, the Celtics might have had a lead heading into halftime. But carelessness got in the way of an otherwise strong effort.
After Pierce hit two free throws to give the Celtics the lead at 48-47, Anthony drew a foul with 9.2 seconds left. Fouling Anthony with less than 10 seconds on the clock was not necessarily a bad move — it is tough to blame a defender for anything against Anthony — and Anthony only hit one of two foul shots to tie it up.
The Celtics’ carelessness showed up when Anthony missed the second freebie. They allowed the Knicks to get the offensive rebound, then fouled Stoudemire. The Knicks power forward, who lived at the line in the first half, knocked down both shots (he is 7-of-8 from the line so far) to give the Knicks the lead.
Three Knicks are already in double figures in scoring, while Pierce has been the main scorer for Boston. Pierce has 19 points and only Rondo, with 10 field goal attempts, has taken anywhere near Pierce’s 12 shots. Rondo has nine points and seven assists for a nice start toward a double-doube, and Garnett has shown energy on the defensive glass, where he has nine boards already. The biggest problem for the Celtics may be Sullinger’s three fouls. They probably will need him late in this one.
Second quarter, 2:53, Celtics 40-39: Something about this game is bringing out the best in the small forwards. Anthony, Pierce and Green are all having strong nights offensively, with Pierce leading the pack with 11 points.
Shumpert has proven to be a bit of a problem for Boston, as well. Best known as a defensive pest, he has definitely been that. But he has also hit four of the five shots he has taken and actually leads the Knicks with 10 points. He had it a little easy, though. Pierce has sort of dared Shumpert to shoot a couple of times, and Shumpert has made Pierce pay. The most recent was a 3-pointer that Pierce just sort of watched.
Second quarter, 8:47, Knicks 31-25: Looking at Stoudemire so far in this game, it is somewhat amazing Knicks fans want to get rid of this guy.
Stoudemire scored on back-to-back possessions to open the quarter, sparking an 11-1 run for the Knicks. Shumpert dropped a jumper from the elbow when Pierce just failed to step out to guard him. Rivers could not ask for a timeout quickly enough after that.
End of first quarter, Celtics 24-20: The Celtics ended the quarter with a super-fast lineup of Leandro Barbosa, Courtney Lee, Jason Terry, Green and Sullinger. And the early returns were good. That lineup closed the quarter on a 6-0 run, including two buckets by Sullinger putting in work down low, to take a two-possession lead for just the first time since it was 4-0.
Anthony got his shots early, as expected. He has six points on 3-for-7 shooting, and the Celtics have sent a collection of defenders at him. Pierce, Bass and Green have all spent time checking the versatile scorer.
First quarter, 2:59, game tied 16-16: The two most maligned reserves in the Eastern Conference made an appearance. Amar’e Stoudemire and Jeff Green have been mentioned in everything from trade rumors — realistic and fantastic — to discussions of the “worst contract” in the NBA. (That conversation is ridiculous in itself, but that is another thing entirely.)
In their first two minutes on the court, they combined to score one point, and it was a debatable one at that. Stoudemire missed a running bank shot but picked up a late foul on Jared Sullinger, then split the free throws.
First quarter, 4:47, Celtics 16-13: Scoring is no problem for either team so far. A back-and-forth first few minutes have seen six lead changes already and roughly 50 percent shooting by both sides.
Rondo has been immensely aggressive early with five points, four assists and two steals. Jason Kidd, of all people, leads the Knicks with seven points.
7:44 p.m.: The Knicks have gone “small” all season with Anthony at power forward, but they will be especially small here. For the fifth time since Christmas, 6-foot-7 swingman James White in the frontcourt. The could put Brandon Bass in a bind defensively, as he would have to guard either ‘Melo or White.
Rivers trusts Bass to cover threes in small stretches. Witness last year’s conference finals, when Bass defended LeBron James at times. Still, the Celtics may have to counter with Jeff Green early.
7:27 p.m.: Iman Shumpert’s return is not as fun to talk about as any leftover beef between Garnett and Anthony, but it should have a much greater impact on this game. Celtics coach Doc Rivers was careful to say Shumpert and Avery Bradley have much different styles, but Rivers did say that both are similar in the way they alter the game with their perimeter defense.
Shumpert has played only two games this season. He played less than 15 minutes in New York’s win over the Pistons last Thursday, and upped his time to a little more than 20 minutes in Monday’s win over Brooklyn.
Bradley, for his part, held court in the locker room before the game and said he tries to spur his teammates to play harder simply by playing hard himself.
8 a.m. ET: Hold your cereal-related jokes, please. Kevin Garnett and Carmelo Anthony says there is no bad blood left over from the last meeting, when Garnett’s trash talk may have gone a bit too far and motivated Anthony to come after Garnett after the game. Instead, there is just the old-fashioned kind of bad blood that always exists in a Celtics-Knicks matchup.
These hated rivals will face off for the second time this season, and there is plenty on the line. The Celtics (20-21) are simply trying to get back in the win column after a four-game losing streak, while the Knicks (25-14) smell blood in the water with the Heat. Although Miami still holds the top spot in the East, its lead is a tenuous 1 1/2 games.
Of course, the records are irrelevant when these teams play. The Celtics surely would not have any problem with giving the Heat some indirect help with a win over New York.
Join us for updates and analysis from the TD Garden during the game, which tips off at 8 p.m. ET.