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Paul Pierce said, “the Knicks have arrived.” Maybe not just yet.
Pierce scored 32 points for the Celtics, including the go-ahead jumper with 0.4 seconds on the clock to fuel their 11th win in a row. Amar’e Stoudemire’s three-pointer at the buzzer was ruled late, thus ending New York’s winning streak of eight straight. Stoudemire had 39 points, extending a franchise-record streak to nine straight 30-point games. Replay showed that the ball was clearly still in Stoudemire’s hands as time expired.
Pierce’ performance was the story for the Celtics, pulling down 10 rebounds to compliment his offensive outburst. Following a 20-second timeout, Pierce pivot-faked toward Stoudemire and then stepped back to drain a jumper from the right side, giving the Celts a 118-116 lead for good. “[It was a] high screen and roll to a switch. He was able to get the step back and he hit the jumper,” Stoudemire said after the game. Of his own attempt at a game-winner, he said, “It felt good. It just happened to be a second late.” And that was the end of it. Order was restored in the East, the Knicks fell into pecking order, and Celtics marched on to a 20-4 record. Ray Allen scored 26 points and Kevin Garnett had 20 points and 13 rebounds for the Celtics.
“They’re going to be a force to reckon with in the division,” Pierce said of the Knicks, but for that to happen their bench will have to get better. (Starters) Raymond Felton had 26 points and 14 assists, Danilo Gallinari scored 20 points, and Wilson Chandler had 18 points and 12 rebounds for the Knicks, but they were only able to get seven points from their entire bench combined. It’s tough to beat the best team in the East without any help. Head coach Mike D’Antoni played only one reserve, Toney Douglas, for more than 10 minutes.
The game was hyped as the first meaningful game at Madison Square Garden in quite some time, and had a big-game feel; all the usual suspects were there, including Donald Trump and a high-fiving Spike Lee.
The Celtics trailed for most of the game, but a 67-point second half allowed them to salvage the victory. Stoudemire’s dunk snapped a 94-all tie with 8:05 left, and the Knicks stayed ahead until the 1:29 mark, when Garnett made a pair of free throws. Ray Allen hit a three to make it 116-113 with just over a minute to go, setting the stage for the thrilling finish.