Knicks hand Celtics 5th loss in row

Knicks hand Celtics 5th loss in row
March 26, 2013, 9:45 pm
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BOSTON – The Celtics have a decent amount of momentum these days - the losing kind, that is.

The C's have now dropped five straight following Tuesday's 100-85 loss to the New York Knicks, who are literally trending in the opposite direction with their win over Boston being their fifth in a row.

Jeff Green led the Celtics with 19 points and 10 rebounds for his first double-double of the season.

But the dominant player in this game was J.R. Smith who scored a game-high 32 points. Knicks all-star Carmelo Anthony also had a solid game, scoring 29 points to go with eight rebounds.

And the Knicks did it with a strong, all-around, balanced effort.

Known for killing teams earlier this season with a barrage of three-pointers, New York has stepped up its defensive game of late, too.

For the season, New York is ranked 10th in the NBA in points allowed (95.6) per game. During their four-game winning streak heading into Tuesday's game, teams had averaged 88.8 points against the Knicks, the third-lowest average in the league during that span.

Although it took both teams more than two minutes to score as both teams showed few signs of pulling away until New York closed out the first with a four-point spurt to take a 28-24 lead after the first.

Boston soon evened things up in the second quarter and it remained relatively close until the Knicks broke open a 35-all tie with a blistering 14-0 run.

Smith continues to add on to a resume that puts him front and center as the NBA's best Sixth Man this season.

After a terrible shooting performance (9 points, 3-for-16 shooting) the last time he was at the TD Garden on Jan. 24, Smith was effective at scoring the ball from the moment he entered the game as he blistered the Celtics for 21 points in the first half.

With the Celtics constantly switching on pick-and-rolls, Smith simply waited for a switch that was to his advantage and attacked the rim or pulled up for the relatively open jumper.

But the Knicks' strong play wasn't a one-man show; it never is when Anthony is around.

He too took advantage of defensive switches by the Celtics as well, which resulted in him scoring 18 first-half points.

For the Celtics who were without Kevin Garnett (swollen left ankle) and Courtney Lee (sprained left ankle), carrying the load early on was Jordan Crawford who got his first start with the Celtics against the Knicks.

He scored 11 of his 14 points in the first half which ended with the C's trailing, 58-44.

Boston also got strong play in the first half from Paul Pierce (8 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists) and Jeff Green (8 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists).

However, their efforts were all but wiped out by nine first-half turnovers that led to 10 points for New York.

Boston once again showed signs of rallying as they cut the Knicks lead to as little as seven points (69-62) in the third.

But the Knicks, as they had done all game, responded with a run of their own to regain control.

Pierce ended the Knicks' 9-0 run with a pair of free throws. But with the third quarter winding down, Boston once again found itself looking up at a double digit deficit.

The fourth quarter was one in which the C's continued to play from behind. And with the Celtics down 93-76 with 5:19 to play, the unofficial white flag was raised by Boston when Doc Rivers took Pierce out, looking to preserve him for the game Wednesday at Cleveland.

Pierce finished with 16 points along with six rebounds and six assists.