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Pierce’s dagger sinks the Knicks

Celtics snap Knicks’ eight-game winning streak at the Garden as Amare’s just a little too late with buzzer-beater.

Celtics 118, Knicks 116

The New York Knicks might not be amongst the elite in the Eastern Conference just yet but if last night’s extremely tight 118-116 loss to the Boston Celtics was an indicator, then the Knicks showed that they aren’t that far away.

Paul Pierce made the game-winning shot with 0.4 seconds left to seal the win but not without tremendous drama to follow. Pierce’s heroics, a bucket from the right elbow, were almost erased as Amare Stoudemire knocked down a long 3-pointer from straightaway at the buzzer. Alas, it came a fraction after the red light went off so Stoudemire’s big scoring night went for naught.

The Celtics once again showed its supremacy by edging out the Knicks down the stretch but not without a fight from the new-look home team. Stoudemire did everything he could to keep the Knicks afloat, as he posted 17 of his game-high 39 points in defeat. Stoudemire extended his franchise record streak of 30-point games to nine straight but his efforts came up short.

Boston [20-4], which has now won 11-straight, was led by a balanced scoring attack, as Pierce notched a team-high 32 points, including eight in the fourth, and Ray Allen had 26 points, including 10 in the final quarter. Kevin Garnett added 20 points and 13 rebounds, as the Celtics managed to withstand the early rush of adrenaline from the Knicks. New York came out hot, as they led by as many as 11 points in the opening quarter.

New York [16-10] had its eight-game winning streak snapped and isn’t on Boston’s level just yet but with such inspired play, they showed that they’re not that far away from being at least a thorn in the side of the contenders and will have to be taken seriously going forward.

Stoudemire wasn’t the lone bright spot, as Wilson Chandler continued his torrid stretch by notching 18 points and 10 rebounds. Raymond Felton again quarterbacked a great game as he dished out 14 assists to go along with his 26 points. Danilo Gallinari scored all 20 of his points in the second half, as the Knicks hung 116 points on the best defensive team in the league. It was the most the Celtics have allowed all season.

Three things we saw:

1 Nearly flawless — Amare Stoudemire was unstoppable early on, as he rode the energy from the Garden crowd and channeled frosty feelings toward rival Kevin Garnett into the type of game expected from a $100 million man. Stoudemire had 17 of his game-high 39 points in the first quarter and added 10 rebounds for good measure. He also extended his franchise record streak of nine-straight games with 30 or more points.

2 All aboard — The Knicks’ supporting cast wasn’t to be outdone, as Wilson Chandler and Raymond Felton also stuffed the box sheet. Chandler, who was starting at power forward, added 18 points and 10 rebounds, while Raymond Felton had 26 points and 14 assists. Felton got the crowd into a frenzy on numerous occasions, including an off-balance 3-pointer before half and give the Knicks a seven-point lead. Felton knocked down all seven of his freebies, including three at the end of the third to put the Knicks up 90-83.

3 So close — The Celtics battled and showed their mettle late, just as perennial powerhouses do. Paul Pierce and Ray Allen combined for 18 points in the final quarter to erase a seven-point deficit. For as great as Stoudemire was offensively, he was no match for Pierce with the game on the line. Pierce’s jumper with 0.4 seconds remaining broke a tie and gave Boston just its third lead of the second half. Stoudemire answered with a 3-pointer on the ensuing in-bounds pass, but it was waved off.

“I wasn’t sure if it was good or not, it felt good,”?Stoudemire said. “We definitely earned our respect, I guarantee Boston respects us.”

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