C's Limp to Win over Knicks


C's Limp to Win over Knicks

All you could say after this one? Thank God for the All-Star break. Both teams played like they were already there.

In a full moon's worth of activity, the Celtics' 27-point third-quarter lead was whittled to 7, but they revived themselves in time to avoid what would have been an embarrassing collapse and stumbled into the break with a 111-103 victory over the Knicks. Both teams could use a sauna and a hot tub after this one - as well as a DVD destroyer.

Brian Scalabrine and Glen Davis went down with injuries. Isiah Thomas was ejected in the fourth quarter, after which his team made its run. Ray Allen (21 points) got the official nod to represent the Celtics in Sunday's All-Star Game. Jamal Crawford three times got fouled while missing a 3-pointer and 66 free throws were attempted in all by both teams. It marked only the eighth time this season the Celtics have given up 100 or more points.

The victory gave the Celtics a 41-9 record at the All-Star break. They are 11-1 against teams from the Atlantic Division.

Paul Pierce led Boston with 24 points, while Leon Powe and Rajon Rondo each had 18. Crawford led the Knicks with 26 while David Lee had 18.

Thomas, overseer of the team with the second-worst record in the conference, said prior to the game that he likes what he's seen lately. "I like the way we've been playing over the last 10 games," said Thomas, whose team is 2-9 in its last 11 games. "We haven't won many of them, but we've played good basketball."

Among those losses were two overtime defeats, and regulation defeats by 1, 2, and 3 points.

They were, however, coming off a win in Milwaukee Saturday night and looking to put together consecutive wins for only the fourth time this season. (Their season high is three.) They had an advantage in that the Celtics played the night before, in that they didn't have Stephon Marbury, in that the Celtics didn't have Kevin Garnett or Kendrick Perkins, and soon would lose Scalabrine (strained groin) in the first quarter for the remainder of the evening.

Davis came down wrong on a spinning move to the basket in the second quarter and grabbed his left leg in pain. He remained on the floor for several minutes and then was helped to the locker room. The Celtics said he had a left quadriceps injury.

All of this might have made a difference against, you know, a legitimate team. But this was the soulless Knicks, who may be the worst defensive team this side of the Washington Generals. The quasi-Celtics still ripped New York apart for 53 points in the first half while shooting 56 percent, including a scalding 73.3 percent in the second quarter.

As Allen noted before the game, "We've done well against the teams that we're supposed to beat." That would be the Knicks, who were 0-2 against the Celtics entering the game.

Boston took over in the second quarter after trailing, 24-21, at the end of the first. Tony Allen's layup (there were a lot of those) started an 11-2 run, during which the Knicks missed four of five shots and turned it over three times. The Celtics eventually stretched the lead to 13 points late in the second, which is where it stood at the half, 53-40.

Both Pierce and Allen each had 11 at the break, while the bench chipped in with 21 points.

It took only 102 seconds in the third for Thomas to call time in the face of yet another unraveling by his easy-to-unravel team. The Knicks started the quarter by turning it over on their first three possessions and then missing a shot on their fourth. The Celtics responded with 7 straight points, capped by a wide-open Pierce trey to build the lead to 20 points, 60-40. It marked the third time in as many meetings this season the Celtics have led the Knicks by at least 20.

The lead swelled to 25 before the Knicks scored their first points of the period, a layup by Zach Randolph with 8:37 left, by which time the Knicks had added two more turnovers to their unsavory olio. Then, a 3-point play by Powe off a pretty feed from Rondo blew the lead out to 25 again with 6:58 still left in the third. This was starting to look a lot like the massacre back on Nov. 29, when the Celtics crushed the Knicks, 104-59, and led at one point by 52 points.

Fittingly, during the runaway, the NBA announced that Ray Allen would be making his eighth All-Star appearance. The Celtics announced it to the crowd at the end of the third quarter.

But no sooner had this one turned into a laugher than the Knicks got back into it - sort of. Crawford and Lee led the Knicks back to where they were at halftime, trailing by 13, which looked a lot better than the 27-point hole they were in midway through the third.

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