The Celtics’ Paul Pierce came up big, the Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony couldn’t find his shooting touch, and Boston beat New York on Monday night at Madison Square Garden. In their first meeting of the season, the Knicks (23-11) lost to the Celtics (17-17), 102-96.
Pierce scored 23 points, Kevin Garnett added 17, and Jeff Green came off the Celtics bench to score 16 points. On the other end of the court, Anthony was six for 26 for 20 points. Anthony’s shooting futility negated a strong Knicks rebounding effort. The Knicks outrebounded the Celtics, 41-35, but it was the Celtics who dominated the low post, outscoring the Knicks 40-28 in the paint.
Garnett scored the first eight points for the Celtics, but the Knicks got scoring from five players and went on an 11-0 run to lead by ten points, 18-8, with 5:13 left in the first quarter. Boston reeled off a 9-0 run of their own to pull within one point. On the next trip down the floor, Steve Novak drilled a three-point shot to extend the Knicks’ lead to four. Boston missed ten of their first 14 shots, but the Celtics took back the lead with a three-pointer by Courtney Lee.
At the end of the first period of play, Garnett led all scorers with eight points, followed by the Knicks’ Tyson Chandler with seven points. Boston led New York, 22-21, midway through the first half.
By the start of the second quarter, the Knicks had missed 12 of their last 16 shots before Novak hit another three-pointer to put the Knicks ahead by two points. The Knicks maintained their lead after two ties when Leandro Barbosa was fouled on a layup, made the free throw, and put the Celtics ahead ,29-28. Carmelo Anthony made his first field goal after sitting most of the first quarter with two fouls. Anthony’s three-pointer put the Knicks up again until Jeff Green dunked to tie the game once again.
Three minutes into the third quarter, Pierce picked up his fourth foul and was sent to the bench. In a rough and tumble quarter, the Celtics pulled ahead 76-72. The Knicks turned the ball over six turnovers and their giveaways contributed to the Celtics outscoring the Knicks 23-16 in the quarter.
Boston increased their lead to eight points which the Knicks cut to four with a free throw by Stoudemire and a three-pointer by Anthony. The two teams battled intensely with a double technical assessed to Anthony and Garnett with 9:03 left in the game. The Knicks’ Jason Kidd hit a three to tie the game, 86-86 with 6:41 remaining. Two baskets by the Celtics were answered by a three pointer by Smith, and Boston’s one point advantage held up until Stoudemire sank two free throws to give the Knicks a one-point lead with under four minutes remaining.
Boston opened up a five-point lead when Garnett canned two free throws after Anthony fouled him with less than three minutes left in the game. Pierce hit a 21-foot jump shot with less than a minute left that put the Celtics point total at 100. The game ended with free throws by Anthony and then Garnett for the Knicks’ fourth loss at home for the season.
Both teams were going for their third straight win, the Knicks playing to stay on their division-leading pace, and the Celtics to even their record and improve their playoff hopes and position in the division. The Celtics have won the last five division titles; the Knicks haven’t won the division since the 1993-94 season. The next meeting of the two division rivals is in Boston on January 24.