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Monday Night, the Bulls dismantled the Kings by 40 points (!!!), meaning the Celtics would need a win against a new-look Knicks squad to keep pace atop the Eastern Conference. At first, that was a tall task, as the Knicks led by 14 points at the half and by 15 at one point in the third quarter.
Then, Paul Pierce took over and the Celtics’ defense clamped down. He scored 21 points (13 in the fourth quarter) and hit several key shots down the stretch as the C’s erased the big deficit and scored the last 10 points of the game in a 96-86 win. Rajon Rondo played more than 42 minutes, scoring 13 points with 12 assists while Kevin Garnett contributed 24 points and 11 rebounds in the potential playoff series preview.
Despite a poor shooting night (5-16), Ray Allen scored 15 points and grabbed eight rebounds, adding the exclamation point to the Celtics victory with a late dunk and two subsequent free throws. He also was the recipient of a nasty battle scar on his head when he was elbowed by Jared Jeffries while going for a rebound. He bled all over the court right near where his mom was sitting, and reportedly needed seven stitches.
“We like to say that we’re always going to battles with different teams,” Allen told reporters. “It’s the game that we’re used to playing and we get out there, we’ve just got to make sure that we bring that fight.”
Troy Murphy had to leave the game with a bloody nose, and Glen Davis was knocked to the ground when he was elbowed in the head while Carmelo Anthony went for a rebound.
Carmelo did not escape damage though, as he received a nasty cut outside his eye during the fourth quarter when he collided with Rajon Rondo while trying to attempt a steal.
“This felt like a playoff game tonight,” Garnett said. “Felt like we were in a bar fight.”
Anthony finished with 22 points and five rebounds, and early on, he had his way with the C’s. Amare Stoudemire scored 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, and played well through the first three quarters.
In the fourth quarter, as the game fell apart, the team’s two superstars faded into the shadows. Neither player hit a shot in the final quarter, missing on all their field goal attempts.
They also had several lapses offensively and defensively. As the Celtics seemed to heat up, the Knicks cooled off, and if there was a fifth quarter to be played, the Celtics probably would have won by 20. The Knicks played the final few minutes like they had already lost and had no idea how to recover.
The Celtics, who have been up and down as of late, really needed to win the game against New York, who currently stands in seventh place in the East. The Celtics, meanwhile, are still tied for first.
Up next for Boston is a game with the Grizzlies at the TD Garden on Wednesday night.