Photos and VideosMore Photos and Videos
It seemed for a moment in the fourth quarter that the cycle had broken.
Paul Pierce, who seemed to have last missed a big shot in the fourth quarter against the Knicks sometime during the Coolidge Administration, bricked a jumper with J.R. Smith in his face and the Celtics down by one.
It felt strange and wonderful all at once, especially when Steve Novak drained a pair of free throws to extend the lead to three with 18 seconds to play.
After all, there was no way the Knicks would let Pierce get a second chance to play hero. Surely you'd rather send Rajon Rondo to the line and take your chances from there instead of handing a gun to a man who takes an unsettling amount of glee in putting it against your head and pulling the trigger.
That's not the way Mike D'Antoni does things, though, and that means that Pierce got another look from three with 4.9 seconds to play. You probably don't need to look beyond the headline to know how that turned out for the Knicks, even though Iman Shumpert's defense was enough to stop any shot whose trajectory wasn't preordained.
After Carmelo Anthony missed at the buzzer, it was on to overtime and the painful end game that unfolds every time the Knicks find themselves in Boston. The Knicks flailed around and the Celtics didn't for a 115-111 win that fits right alongside every other rip your heart from your chest and show it to you while grinning like a psychopathic madman loss that the Celtics have laid on the Knicks in Boston over the last five years.
This one was particularly painful because it wasn't just about Pierce executing or Rajon Rondo throwing up the kind of line -- 18 points, 20 assists, 17 rebounds -- that made you wonder if Danny Ainge was actually trying to destroy the Celtics by engaging in trade talks involving his point guard. No, this one was painful because of how many ways the Knicks gave the thing away.
There's the refusal to foul Rondo before Pierce can tie the game with a three, Amar'e Stoudemire following a Lin miss in overtime with a dunk attempt off the back rim that turned into an easy Celtics bucket, a ghosts of Red Auerbach technical on Shumpert for having the temerity to dunk the ball on Kevin Garnett and, once again, far too many free throw misses. And that's just the small stuff where you can fool yourself into thinking one little difference can change the game.
Bigger stuff also matters and very little loomed larger on Sunday than the Knicks' 22 turnovers, 12 of which came from Jeremy Lin and Baron Davis on forays to the hoop that ended in disaster because they were either unprepared or unable to deal with Boston actually defending them.
Both guys had moments of brilliance, but they are harder to remember than the moments where they went into the lane to throw clueless passes right into the hands of Celtics defenders.
Lin seemed to figure out how to get things done in the fourth quarter by using the defense's commitment to stopping him to his advantage on some key hoops, but the magic ran out in overtime and, overall, it wasn't a good night for Lin.
The biggest positive you could take away from the proceedings is that, outside of a dreadful third quarter, the Knicks came up with another night's worth of answers to doubts that they can find a way to make everything work on offense.
Small consolation for a team that doesn't have time to take solace in small victories while losing the war. The Knicks played well enough to win, but, as is the practice in Boston, they didn't win.
Nothing else really matters.