Wilson Chandler scored a career-high 31 points and the Knicks snapped an eight-game losing streak against the sputtering Celtics with a 100-88 victory Sunday night.
Al Harrington added 30 for the Knicks, who hadn’t beaten Boston at Madison Square Garden since March 23, 2005, dropping the last six meetings. Capitalizing on a quiet night for Kevin Garnett, they seized control in the third quarter, never let it get too close in the fourth and added to the defending champions’ worst stretch of the season.
“It was the way they scored. It was frustrating watching it happen,” Celtics guard Ray Allen said. “It was disappointing because we couldn’t get a stop. They were scoring in ways that each time they scored it was somewhat letting the air out of the balloon, out of ourselves.”
Chandler put the finishing touches on the upset when he took a long outlet pass from David Lee and made a layup while being fouled, hitting the free throw for a 98-86 lead with 2:11 to play.
“We’ve been close in a lot of games. I thought we’ve played and we haven’t finished games,” Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni said. “Tonight we finished them. I don’t want to get too far ahead of us. That was a great win and we’ll try to get better on the defensive end. If we can have that effort and learn how to finish games, which tonight we did, we’ll just see if we can keep building on it.”
Paul Pierce scored 31 points for the Celtics, who lost for the fourth time in six games after a 27-2 start. Ray Allen added 16, but Garnett, who hurt his right calf when he was kicked late in the third quarter, had only six points on 1-of-6 shooting with nine rebounds.
“We’ve just got to come together,” Pierce said. “We talked about it after the game amongst the players, what we’re doing right, what we’re doing wrong, and the good thing about this group, we’re a strong group. It’s just about getting through this period and we know we’re a better team that the way we’ve been playing.”
Lee had 14 points and 14 rebounds as he and Chandler, who scored 15 points in the decisive third quarter, consistently outworked Garnett and Boston’s front line.
“It’s definitely good, but at the end of the day it’s all about the team,” Chandler said. “We won. We’ve been struggling a little bit, but it’s good to get a win against this team.”
Meanwhile, the defending NBA champions lacked their usual poise, frequently yelling at each other or the officials. They allowed 100 points for just the eighth time in 35 games this season and managed the lowest total allowed by the Knicks.
“We were frustrated,” Boston coach Doc Rivers said. “I think we were very frustrated in our play tonight. I thought you could see it real early in the game and that’s not us, but it was us tonight.”
Boston lost three of four on its West Coast road trip over the holidays, creating some belief they needed more depth for a run at a repeat. ESPN.com reported Thursday that could come from Stephon Marbury, the banished Knicks guard who is seeking his release. The report said the Celtics would be interested once a buyout is completed.
Celtics players seemed willing to accept that move—even former Minnesota teammate Garnett said he’d be OK with it—and said they weren’t caught up in the speculation, even with a huge media crowd in their locker room before the game.
“We can’t really worry about it all,” point guard Rajon Rondo said. “We’ve got to go out there and go with the staff at hand. You’ve got to talk to the general manager and coach Rivers. We got to go out there and play every night regardless of who they bring in.”
The Celtics led 53-50 at halftime, shooting 54 percent from the field and getting 15 points from Pierce and 12 from Allen. Garnett took only one shot and had six points at halftime, but grabbed five rebounds and blocked four shots, sending one of Chandler’s attempts a few rows behind the baseline in the first quarter.
With the Celtics leading by two in the third, Chandler nailed a 3-pointer, then hit a jumper before being fouled by Garnett behind the arc and making all three free throws for a 66-60 lead with 6:39 left in the third quarter. The lead reached 11 on a long 3-pointer by Harrington, and the Knicks were ahead 78-68 heading to the fourth after outscoring Boston 28-15.
Notes: D’Antoni said center Eddy Curry, out all season with a knee injury, could play for the first time this season on a four-game Western Conference road trip that begins Tuesday. … Garnett appeared to land gingerly after throwing a behind-the-back pass to set up a dunk by Kendrick Perkins late in the third quarter. He had his leg wrapped below his right knee early in the fourth before returning with just under 6 1/2 minutes remaining.