BOSTON - Perhaps in a few more weeks, with his legs under him and the rust off, Tracy McGrady wins this game on his own. But at this point, it is a mere victory that he was able to play his third game in four nights and second of a back-to-back.
That's the only kind of success the Knicks can celebrate these days, after a 110-106 defeat last night to the Celtics at TD Garden extended their losing streak to eight. The new-look roster is 0-3 since six players were exchanged at Thursday's trade deadline.
McGrady had six points and eight assists in 26 minutes. He shot just 3-for-8, and missed all four of his three-point attempts, including the final one: a potential game-tying shot with 27.9 seconds left in regulation with the Knicks trailing 109-106.
After the miss, McGrady turned away from the rim and clapped his hands in disgust.
"Even when I took that shot," McGrady said, "I really wasn't confident in taking it."
The former All-Star clearly played at his own speed and didn't push himself too much in this game. The good news was that he was healthy enough to play after he banged his surgically repaired left knee in Monday's loss to the Bucks and was seen limping. He didn't show a limp last night, but also spent most of the game deferring and setting up others. "The real question was whether to put him back in the game with five minutes to go, whether he stiffened up or not," Mike D'Antoni said.
But McGrady said he wanted in with 5:30 left and the Knicks were trailing 105-102. After a kendrick Perkins dunk made it 107-102, McGrady hit David Lee for a jumper, then scored on a drive to bring the Knicks within one with 2:45 left. It was to be the last basket the Knicks scored in the game.
Despite the struggles down the stretch, overall, the Knicks had much better spacing and rhythm with their offense than the night before. Of course the Knicks (19-37), who fell to 81/2 games out of a playoff spot with 26 games to go.
Ray Allen led the Celtics (39-19) with 24 points and had a huge block on a Wilson Chandler cut with 48.9 seconds left with the Knicks trailing by three. Lee had 28 points and 15 rebounds and Sergio Rodriguez had 18 points and six assists for the Knicks.
The Celtics played without All-Star Paul Pierce, who has a right thumb strain and also is dealing with a flu.
Former Knick Nate Robinson made his debut in Celtic green and had four points in 16 minutes and shot 2-for-7 from the field. He hit a jumper with 6:17 left to give the Celtics a 105-100 lead.
Eddie House, who was part of the five-player trade for Robinson and a key member of the Celtics' 2008 championship team, was welcomed back by the Boston crowd in the first quarter with a standing ovation while a video tribute played on the JumboTron. House blew kisses to the crowd as they chanted, "Ed-die! Edi-die!"