Returning back home to the Garden wasn’t enough to help the Celtics (36-34) avoid a fifth straight loss. Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith combined for 61 points, as the Knicks (43-26) defeated Boston 100-85.
The Celtics have managed to survive to date without their All-Star point guard, Rajon Rondo, but his absence was hard-felt tonight. Boston had 19 turnovers, and was unable to string together any consistency on the offensive end.
The brightest spot offensively for Boston was the play of Jeff Green, who continues to shine in a starting role. Green led the Celtics in points and rebounds, with 19 and 10. It was the first time he recorded a double-double this season.
Boston’s defense also struggled to keep New York out of the paint. The Knicks had 50 points in the lane, many coming off second chance opportunities. The Celtics allowed 15 offensive rebounds, including six to Anthony alone.
This can largely be attributed to the lack of an interior presence with Kevin Garnett sitting out. This was the second straight game he’s missed, and is still expected to be out another two weeks.
Boston was also without Courtney Lee, who was listed as a game-time decision with an ankle injury suffered in the loss to Dallas.
Boston now sits just one game ahead of Milwaukee in the loss column for the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference. Dropping down to the eighth seed would mean a first round meeting against LeBron James and the Miami Heat. With Miami winners of 27 straight, that is something the Celtics surely look to avoid.
As it currently stands, the Knicks would be Boston’s first round opponent. The Celtics and Knicks will have another shot at each other when these two meet again on Sunday.
First the Celtics will head to Cleveland though, as the Celtics look to prevent a six-game losing streak at the hands of the Cavaliers.