Carmelo Anthony continued his dominant play, registering his first triple-double as a Knick, but he also got the help he needed from his teammates to beat a quality playoff team Tuesday night.
Anthony scored 35 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and dished for 10 assists in the Knicks' 118-110 win over the Celtics at the Garden. But three other Knicks scored at least 20 points, including a career-high 25 by Steve Novak, who was huge in the fourth quarter.
Novak drilled back-to-back three-pointers with under three minutes left after the Celtics' trimmed a 21-point deficit to six, helping the Knicks hold off Boston and a 43-point night by Paul Pierce. The Knicks hit 19 threes, and Anthony assisted on both of Novak's big baskets that made it a 10-point game with 2:05 left.
"I think Melo now is settling in," coach Mike Woodson said. "He's playing like we all thought he could play, and it's beautiful to watch him play because he's doing a lot of things on both ends of the floor. He's making guys around him better and we're winning. That's what the good players do."
Anthony had 42 points in the loss to the Heat Sunday. J.R. Smith was the only other Knick to reach double figures in that game. But the Knicks got a huge shooting night overall and big performances from several players Tuesday night as they won for the 14th time in 19 games under Woodson and moved closer to a playoff berth and the seventh seed.
The Knicks (32-29) are one game up on eighth-place Philadelphia, but essentially are two ahead because the Knicks own the tiebreaker. The Knicks also have a 2½-game lead on the Bucks with five games to play.
"This is the type of basketball we have to play heading into the playoffs," said Tyson Chandler, who had 20 points and seven rebounds despite playing with a sore left knee.
The Knicks scored a season-high 72 points in the first half and matched an NBA record with 14 three-pointers in the half.
Smith got the Knicks going with seven threes in the first half, and finished with 25 points. Novak shot 8-for-10 from downtown, helping the Knicks' bench outscore Boston's 55-2.
"He's the best three-point shooter in our league by far," Smith said. "People are starting to catch onto it, but not fast enough."
Novak credited Anthony.
"Melo has been unbelievable lately the way he's been scoring the ball and getting to the hoop and knocking free throws down,'' Novak said. "We feel we have to spread the floor to make it harder for the defense to give him too much attention. That's when we're at our best.''
Anthony and the Knicks could have additional help by the weekend. Woodson said it's possible Amar'e Stoudemire will return from his back injury Friday night in Cleveland.
The win kept alive the Knicks' slim hopes of capturing the Atlantic Division. They're 3½ games out. To finish first, the Knicks need to win out and Boston has to drop its final four games. It's unlikely, but this was an important victory nonetheless.
The Knicks needed a big finish, especially after Anthony picked up his fifth foul and went to the bench with the Knicks up 12 and 6:26 left. When he returned with 3:37 remaining, they led 112-104. The Celtics cut it to six moments later on two Pierce foul shots. But Novak buried the two huge threes that fought off the Celtics and got Anthony his second career triple-double.
"It wasn't me," Anthony said. "It was Novak and J.R. and those guys making those shots. If they wouldn't have made those shots, I wouldn't have had it."
Notes & quotes: The Knicks will play in New Jersey for the final time Wednesday night against the Nets, who are moving to Brooklyn next season. The Nets will be without All-Star guard Deron Williams because of a calf injury.