Boston Celtics' Paul Pierce, right, helps up teammate Rajon Rondo after Rondo fell over New York Knicks' Carmelo Anthony during the second half of an NBA basketball game Monday, March 21, 2011, in New York. The Celtics won the game 96-86. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
For three quarters, it seemed like you'd leave Madison Square Garden shaking your head in bafflement about how a team that loses to the dregs of the NBA can beat one of the best teams in the league.
After leading by as many as 15 points and taking a six-point lead into the final quarter, the Knicks completely and totally fell apart.
The Celtics schooled them on both ends of the floor, scored the final 10 points of the game and walked out of MSG with a 96-86 win that has everyone wondering whether there's any point investing in this team for the rest of this season.
Trying to find silver linings in the continual string of losses is getting tiresome.
The Knicks played hard. That was good to see after their lackadaisical efforts over the weekend. It was a tough game that featured a lot of blood spilled on both sides, but all the effort in the world can't make up for indifferent execution.
If you were so inclined, you could find joy in the fact that the Celtics scored only 37 points in the first half as the Knicks ran a decent-looking offense and forced their way into the lead.
If you want to do that, though, you'll have to pretty willfully ignore the way the Celtics made it clear that they were just toying with the Knicks until the final quarter.
That's when they scored at will against a Knicks defense that looked totally overwhelmed.
The big three from Boston all took turns doing damage with Rajon Rondo running the show, giving Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire a firsthand lesson of how things are supposed to work when you have multiple star players.
Hopefully they learned the lesson because the fourth quarter on Monday night featured no baskets from either Knicks icon.
The Celtics defense certainly turned up a notch -- there's another good lesson there -- but the Knicks made things all too easy by settling for contested jumpers and standing around offensively.
Once again, the Knicks looked like a team that met five minutes before the game and played like individuals instead of a team. No one expected this to come together overnight, but you would be forgiven for expecting more than this after 16 games together.
There's no stabilizing force, no leader to rally around and increasingly little chance that the Knicks are going to be more than a brief participant in what once looked like a triumphant return to the playoffs.