At least the Knicks reclaimed the Garden.
In the midst of the most heated game of this so-called "Dream Week," the fans produced a chorus of "Boston --!" on Friday night. No one was giving any MVP endorsements for the Celtics, nor were they awestruck by an opponent.
This one was the typical brawl we've come to expect between the Knicks and the Celtics, and the ending, a 110-100 win for Boston, also was somewhat expected.
The Celtics used a 16-5 run in a 4:44 span late in the fourth quarter to take a 13-point lead and finally put away a Knicks team that once again could not find a go-to scorer down the stretch. The Celtics - with Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Eddie House hitting one big shot after another in a 38-point fourth quarter - clearly do not have that problem.
"I can't fault any of the first 40 minutes," Mike D'Antoni said in a refrain that became familiar this week. "In the final eight, Boston kind of did some things that made them world champions. That's why they're great."
The Knicks entered the week on an 8-3 streak, but Friday's game completed a stretch of three consecutive home losses against the three top teams in the NBA. It started Monday against the Lakers and Kobe Bryant, who set a Garden record with 61 points. Then came the Cavaliers on Wednesday and a 52-point performance by LeBron James, who fell a rebound short of a triple-double. Both games were reminders that the Knicks, though improved over the past losing seasons, still lack the star-quality player needed to go toe-to-toe with the league's elite.
But the Knicks insist they came away feeling good about themselves. "I think, believe it or not, we got better," said Al Harrington, who led the Knicks with 27 points Friday night.
David Lee added 18 points and 18 rebounds in his 13th straight double-double and 38th of the season for the Knicks (21-28). Pierce had 24 points and Allen added 22 for Boston (42-10).
Along with a reality check, the games at the very least provided the Knicks some experience with playoff-like intensity. For rookie Danilo Gallinari, who is still trying to find his legs in the NBA game, this is invaluable. And D'Antoni had the 20-year-old on the court in the fourth quarter to soak up as much as he could. It was a bit of a risk, considering the Knicks entered the fourth quarter with a 76-72 lead and some momentum.
Gallinari scored five points, including a three-pointer, early in the quarter but was beaten several times by Allen, who scored 11 straight Celtics points in a critical run that turned the Knicks' 80-79 lead into a 90-86 deficit. D'Antoni took Gallinari out of the game just before Allen's final bucket of the run, but before that, Allen twice drilled catch-and-shoot three-pointers over the rookie.
As Gallinari walked by D'Antoni toward the bench, the coach told him, "Don't worry about it." Afterward, D'Antoni said his confidence in Gallinari is growing by the game and that even his defense is better than credited.
"Ray Allen took him off the dribble a couple of times," he said, "but that's not the first time Ray Allen's ever done that."
Nate Robinson's three-point play with 6:46 left got the Knicks within 88-86. But House scored eight points - including two three-pointers - in the 16-5 run that gave the Celtics a 104-91 lead with 2:02 left.
The Celtics' win clinched the season series against the Knicks, 3-1. But this might not be the last time these teams see each other. The Knicks are 1 1/2 games behind the Bucks (24-28) and the Nets (23-27) for the final playoff spot in the East. The Celtics currently hold the top spot.
"We have to take care of business from here on in," said Chris Duhon, who had 15 points and seven assists. "We know that if we do have the opportunity to face them later on, we shouldn't go in there intimidated. We should go in there with confidence, knowing we played them tough."
Meanwhile, the rivalry lives. "I know there's a lot of bad blood between the two cities," Allen said. "Spike [Lee] is a good friend of mine and sometimes I can't even get him to call me back."
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