BOSTON — The first meeting between Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Garnett since their nasty encounter on Jan. 7 in New York turned into just another night of misery for the floundering Celtics.
Anthony, suspended for a game for going out to the Boston bus after Garnett’s alleged comments, scored 28 points and grabbed nine rebounds to lead the New York Knicks to a 89-86 victory and send Boston to its fifth straight loss.
The win ended the Knicks’ 13-game TD Garden losing streak (back to 2006) and spoiled a brilliant performance by Boston’s Rajon Rondo, who had a triple-double with 23 points (10 in the final 6:35), 11 assists and 10 rebounds.
Amar’e Stoudemire came off the bench with 15 points and nine rebounds for the Knicks, who won for the third time in their last four games.
Garnett, who exchanged a fist bump with Anthony before the opening tap, had eight points and 12 rebounds in a closely called game that saw 23 fouls on each team.
The Celtics, behind Rondo, cut a 10-point lead to two and were down by two when Garnett missed a jumper. J.R. Smith, 2 of 15 for the game to that point, then nailed a 3-pointer to make it a five-point lead with 1:11 remaining. Rondo scored with 39.5 seconds left and Jason Kidd then missed a 3-point shot from the left corner, the Celtics getting the rebound and calling time with 13.1 seconds remaining.
Paul Pierce, who had 19 of his 22 points and all of his field goals in the first half, lost the ball out of bounds with 7.1 seconds left and the Celtics were unable to foul before the final buzzer.
The triple-double was Rondo’s fourth of the season, the 27th of his career, counting postseason.
Anthony hit the 20-point mark for the 21st straight game, leaving him two games shy of the Knicks’ record.
The Knicks used a 9-0 run at the start of the second quarter to take a 29-24 lead, but the Celtics went on an 11-0 spurt (Pierce with a basket to open it and a 3-pointer to close it) to lead by five. Boston led by six with 3:49 left in the half, but New York finished the half with a 16-8 run to lead by two at the break.
There were four ties in the third quarter and the Knicks led by four when Jason Terry set up two straight baskets, a Courtney Lee jumper and Jeff Green 3-pointer, the latter giving the Celtics the lead. The Knicks then scored the last seven points of the quarter (five of them the first five points of the game by big man Tyson Chandler, with the Celtics playing a small lineup) and led by six at the end of three quarters.
The lead was up to 10 with 8:23 left in the game.
NOTES: If you don’t think the NBA was concerned about this game, consider this: longtime refs Dick Bavetta and Joey Crawford were both assigned to work the matchup. … After Sunday night’s loss in Detroit, Celtics coach Doc Rivers threatened roster changes if the club didn’t turn things around. Before Thursday night’s game, the coach said, “I think we have what we need in the locker room. I’m just not getting it out of them.” … The Knicks haven’t won the Atlantic Division since 1993-94. Rivers played for that team. … New York is at Philadelphia on Friday, and the Celtics are at Atlanta on Friday before the return of Ray Allen with the Heat on Sunday. … Anthony has filed an appeal through the Players Association attempting to regain the $176,000 he was docked for the one-game suspension in the Garnett affair. “In light of all the circumstances, including the fact that there was no physical altercation, we believe the discipline was excessive,” players’ union lead attorney Ron Klempner told the New York Post. In honor of last week’s fun, green T-shirts reading “Carmelo Honey Nut Cheerios” were being sold for $25 outside TD Garden. CSNNE tweeted “Can’t believe the Celtics confiscated everyone’s Honey Nut Cheerios gear. Is it really that bad? People just having fun.” … Both teams wore “NBA Fit” warm-ups to kick off NBA Fit Live Healthy Week, to, in the words of Chandler, “Motivate fans of all ages to live healthier lives.”