NEW YORK — This was one of the more impressive wins of the season for the Celtics because the Knicks played so well for so long. It became apparent after the first few minutes that the Celtics were going to have trouble stopping the Knicks, and for the most part, they did.
But the Celtics got stops when they needed to and contained Amar’e Stoudemire in the fourth quarter, holding him to 6 points after 33 through three quarters. Doc Rivers said after the game that the key was limiting the contributions of the Knicks besides Stoudemire but that wasn’t effective. Raymond Felton nearly took over the game in the fourth quarter while Danilo Gallinari, who always played well against the Celtics at MSG, scored all 20 of his points in the second half.
Felton outplayed Rajon Rondo but that was partly because Rondo was ailing and he couldn’t defend the burly guard down the stretch. Felton also added 14 assists and three 3-pointers.
This game was one not only on Paul Pierce’s step-back 14-footer with 0.4 left, but with the defense that preceded it. Stoudemire didn’t just fly to the basket as he had in the first three quarters. Kevin Garnett played him straight up and he had to do most of his work off the dribble or with a pull-up jumper. He didn’t score in the final 2:57 of the game and the Celtics forced Felton into making plays while Gallinari converted a three-point play with 50.4 left but he had to work hard for, taking Pierce off the dribble.
Instead of jump shooters, the Celtics turned the Knicks into drivers and their offense suffered. Rondo left the game briefly in the third quarter because of a sprained left ankle but he returned hobbled but led the Celtics down the stretch.
He executed the final play to Pierce perfectly, allowing Pierce to take Stoudemire for the step back. The win was rewarding because the Knicks did play well, shooting 53.1 percent from the field with 9 3-pointers and 21-for-26 from the free throw line. They took all of New York’s punches and finished with a few of their own, including the final blow by Pierce and the Celtics extended their impressive winning streak to 11.