Celtics lose fifth straight, 89-86 to Knicks

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Celtics lose fifth straight, 89-86 to Knicks

BOSTON There was more passion, more fire, more of everything that Doc Rivers has been imploring the Boston Celtics to bring to the floor for weeks.
Sadly, it still wasn't enough as the New York Knicks pulled away in the second half for a 89-86 win.
New York pulled ahead 80-70 in the fourth, looking as though they were ready to put the C's away and the Celtics at that point, seemed more than willing to oblige.
But the Celtics started making shots, which as we've seen, is usually followed by better defense.
It shouldn't be that way, but it is what it is.
With Rajon Rondo leading the way, the C's went on a 12-4 run to come within two points.
A tip-in by New York's Tyson Chandler made it a four-point game, only for Rondo to come back with a pair of free throws to cut New York's lead to 86-84.
Rondo was getting it done on the defensive end as well, drawing an offensive foul against Carmelo Anthony with 1:53 to play.
The C's couldn't capitalize on the turnover, as the Knicks eventually got a 3-pointer from J.R. Smith with 1:11 to play to lead, 89-84.
Smith's shot was huge, but the hero for New York was Anthony, who just used and abused the Celtics defenders most of the night with either the pull-up jumper or driving to the basket before finishing with a game-high 28 points.
Even with Anthony having a big game, Boston had its chances afterward.
A Rondo jumper followed by a Jason Kidd miss, gave the Celtics a chance to tie the game with 13.1 seconds to play.
Following a Celtics timeout, Paul Pierce lost the ball out of bounds with 7.1 seconds to play.
Making matters worse, the C's could not get close enough to any of the Knicks players as time expired, a sequence that reinforced the fact that the C's continue to fail at executing effectively in late-game situations.
Pierce led the C's with 22 points -- only 3 in the second half -- while Rondo collected his 27th career triple-double with 23 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists.
Boston (20-22) has now lost five straight for the first time this season, and just the third time (twice last season) since the 2008 title run.
With so much attention paid to the post-game events in their Jan. 7 matchup involving Anthony and Kevin Garnett, it took much of the attention off what was a game that both teams desperately needed for different Knicks.
New York (26-14) came in atop the Atlantic Division by half a game, with the Brooklyn Nets nipping at their heels. The Celtics came in having lost four in a row and were looking to avoid a five-game losing skid.
Both teams delivered the kind of high intensity play that kept the game relatively close in the first quarter which ended with the Celtics ahead 24-20.
One of the keys to Boston's slim lead was what turned out to be a near-perfect quarter with the C's committing zero turnovers.
The second quarter did not go quite as well for the Celtics, with the Knicks going almost exclusively with multiple zone coverages.
Rather than attacking the interior of the zone, the C's relied on what they have relied on all season -- jumpers.
And has been the case often this season, those shots were off the mark which allowed the Knicks to spend a good chunk of the second quarter with a lead.
Boston eventually snapped out of his jump-shooting trance and began to try and score around the basket, or penetrate and kick out for what were open shots.
That was hit and miss for the C's, but the driving to the basket led to a surprisingly high number of free throw attempts.
But it was New York's work from the free throw line that proved to be the difference in the half, which ended with three made free throws by the Knicks which put them ahead, 50-48, at the half.
For Boston, Pierce was having a big night with 19 points in the first half, which was more points scored by the Captain than he had in each of the C's previous four games - all losses.
Boston pulled ahead 66-65 on a Jeff Green 3-pointer in the third quarter, but the Knicks closed out the third with a 7-0 run and the C's spent the rest of the game playing from behind.