Celtics stay alive with gutty road OT victory

It looked like the season was over for a while but the Boston Celtics PG Jason Terry came through again with as the two teams entered overtime with 9 straight points.

“Now we have to go into a hostile environment and they’re going to be trying to get it over with,” said Terry.

The Celtics came back from 19 points down at half time to send the game into overtime.

“There were a lot of Knicks fans in here,” Terry said. “That’s just something — it was a closeout game and they take over our building. Not our building. So that kinda fueled me up.”

Game  5 is set for Wed. May 5th at The Garden.

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Knicks Beat Celtics at Garden, 118-110

By the end of the evening, the smiles were plastered across Madison Square Garden, spreading like a happy contagion.

Stoudemire will be back soon, he assured. In the meantime, his teammates kept up their April assault on the N.B.A., rolling to over the that ranked among their most important this season.

It was a win built on selfless playmaking, on ’s first triple-double as a Knick and on a hailstorm of 3-pointers from Steve Novak and J. R. Smith.

It lifted the Knicks into sole possession of seventh place in the Eastern Conference, at 32-29. It kept them — albeit marginally — in the hunt for the Atlantic Division lead, held by Boston (36-26). And it served as a fantastic confidence boost with the playoffs on the horizon.

The victory was just the Knicks’ third this season over one of the East’s elite teams.

“It’s huge,” said Tyson Chandler, “because we know Boston has been rolling. Boston’s playing incredible of late.”

The Knicks opened a 21-point lead in the first half, held a double-digit edge for most of the second half and repelled the Celtics down the stretch after Boston cut the deficit to 6.

Anthony finished with 35 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists, for the second triple-double of his career. Novak set career highs with 25 points and eight 3-pointers, which fell one shy of the franchise record. Smith had a season-high 25 points and hit seven 3-pointers, all in the first half, which tied a franchise record.

The Knicks finished with 19 3-pointers, the second most in franchise history. They hit 14 in the first half, tying an N.B.A. record.

The Celtics blamed themselves.

“We talked about maybe overreacting to Carmelo,” said Paul Pierce, who led Boston with a season-high 43 points. “We started trapping him and it allowed them to swing the ball to open shooters, and it ignited the other guys and gave them a lot of confidence.”

The victory pushed the Knicks one game ahead of the Philadelphia 76ers (31-30), who lost earlier to Indiana. The Knicks effectively have a two-game lead because they hold the head-to-head tiebreaker.

As an added bonus, Stoudemire should be back in the lineup within days. He hinted strongly that he will play Friday night in Cleveland, after taking four weeks to recover from a bulging disk in his back.

“I’ll be back soon,” Stoudemire said coyly before the game. “I definitely have to get some games under my belt before the playoffs. So there’s a little hint.”

Coach Mike Woodson called Friday a “possibility,” with Sunday (in Atlanta) the fallback option if Stoudemire needs more time. Stoudemire will miss his 13th straight game Wednesday night, when the Knicks make their final trip to New Jersey to play the Nets.

The Knicks could certainly use another All-Star in the lineup when the playoffs arrive later this month. But they hardly seemed to need any help Tuesday, with Anthony alternating between scorer and playmaker.

“He’s playing like we all thought he could play,” Woodson said, “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.”

Ray Allen was a late scratch for the Celtics and missed his fifth straight game because of a sprained ankle. Boston took another blow in the third quarter, when Rajon Rondo took a hard fall in the paint, apparently injuring his lower back. He stayed down for several minutes, but finished the game.

The Knicks’ next challenge is reincorporating Stoudemire after a one-month absence, during which Anthony took over the power forward role and played his best games of the season. Despite Anthony’s surge and the Knicks’ success, Woodson reiterated that Stoudemire will reclaim his starting job, pushing Anthony back to small forward.

Although Anthony and Stoudemire have often played awkwardly as a tandem, Woodson said he wants them on the court together.

“As the head coach, guys, I’ve got to see if this thing is going to work,” he said, adding: “I got to make it work. And I’m going to bring Amar’e back, when he decides to come back, and he’s going to start and we’re going to make it work.”


Carmelo Anthony’s only other triple-double came on Feb. 5, 2007, with the Denver Nuggets, when he had 31 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in a loss to Phoenix. … Baron Davis aggravated his strained left hamstring in the third quarter and played just 18 minutes. He also was battling an illness that left him nauseous all day and required intravenous fluids before the game. Davis said he would play Wednesday night. … Deron Williams, the Nets’ star point guard, will miss Wednesday’s game against the Knicks because of a calf strain, according to Coach Avery Johnson. … Amar’e Stoudemire shaved his scruffy beard and put his hair in corn rows — a style he has not worn since he was 17. Stoudemire said there was nothing symbolic in the makeover. “I’m just growing my hair out,” he explained. “And its just the fastest way to grow, when it’s in a cornrow setting.” As for the clean shave, he said, the beard “would be a little bit much with the cornrows. It was offsetting. My swag wasn’t impeccable.”

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Celtics Back on Track After Sluggish Start

Charting the Celtics’ season to date is like looking at a mountain range from afar. There were three straight losses, all without Paul Pierce, to begin the season. Then came four straight wins, all with Pierce, to briefly get the team over .500 at 4-3.

That was followed by five straight defeats, the most in the era of the Big Three — Pierce, and Ray Allen. But soon came the latest uptick, a stretch of six wins in seven games. It would have been seven straight wins had the team not blown an 11-point lead to Cleveland in the final four minutes last Sunday night.

After Wednesday night’s 100-64 dismantling of the Toronto Raptors, the Celtics again climbed above .500 at 11-10, prompting Coach to say: “It’s about time. We’ve been through a lot.”

The recent Celtics run has been triggered by the return of two previously missing components of the game plan: a healthy Pierce and a stingy defense. Those were two givens for the Celtics over the last several years. But only recently have they re-emerged.

Pierce clearly struggled after missing most of training camp and the first three games with a bruised right heel. One of the missed games was the season opener against the Knicks in Madison Square Garden. Even when he did return, he was very un-Pierce-like, averaging just 14.6 points and 38 percent shooting in his first 11 games. But in his last seven games, Pierce is averaging 22.9 points, shooting 49.5 percent, while also collecting 7.7 assists and 6.4 rebounds a game.

“Things are starting to come around,” Pierce said after scoring a game-high 17 points in only 26 minutes against Toronto. “We really gained some confidence over the last few weeks. Hopefully, that continues.”

Even more important has been the Celtics’ trademark defense. Early in the season, with seven new players to integrate, the Celtics ranked among the league’s worst defensive teams. They allowed 100 or more points in their first two games and 95 or more three additional times.

Things took a turn against Orlando on Jan. 23. With three starters out, the Celtics suffocated the Magic, holding Orlando to franchise lows in points (56), field goals (16) and shooting percentage (24.6). Much of the credit went to the second-year guard Avery Bradley, substituting for the injured Rajon Rondo. Bradley was instrumental in setting the defensive tempo for the night, harassing Jameer Nelson full-court.

Starting with that game and continuing through Wednesday night’s rout of the Raptors, the Celtics’ defense allowed an average of 78 points a game while holding opponents to 36.7 percent shooting. The Celtics, through Wednesday’s games, ranked No. 2 in the N.B.A. in points allowed (86.9) and No. 4 in defensive field-goal percentage (41.9). They also ranked second in defensive 3-point field-goal percentage at 29.9. Those are numbers Rivers can live with.

This recent run has come without Rondo, an All-Star and one of the team’s most valuable players. He injured his right wrist against Toronto on Jan. 18 and has not played since. The Celtics are 6-2 in the games he has missed. Rivers said Rondo might return against the Knicks.

Bradley has supplied the defense in Rondo’s absence, while Pierce has become the de facto playmaker. The bench is also starting to come around, led by Brandon Bass and Mickael Pietrus.

Knicks fans saw Bass play one of his best games in his Celtics debut on Christmas, when he scored 20 points and collected 11 rebounds in a Boston loss. They did not see Pietrus, who had been signed as a free agent the night before. Pietrus made his Celtics debut on Jan. 11 and has averaged 8.3 points while playing nearly 23 minutes a game over 12 games. Rivers loves Pietrus’s 3-point shooting, but he is even more enamored with his defense.

“Just his defensive presence on our team has been phenomenal,” Rivers said. “It’s amazing. He’s like Kevin is for our starters. He’s becoming that for our second unit. He holds everybody accountable.”

The Celtics, like every team, have had their share of injuries. Garnett is the only Celtics starter and Bass the only reserve to have appeared in all 21 games.

When these two teams met to inaugurate the season, the widespread belief at the time was that they would be the top two teams in the Atlantic Division, with the Knicks posing a real threat to end the Celtics’ four-year reign as division champions.

Almost six weeks later, both teams are well behind Philadelphia, with the Celtics trying to close the gap and the Knicks much closer to the division’s basement than the lead.

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