7:30 PM ET, March 31, 2013
Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
NEW YORK -- Closing in on one goal of ending Boston's division title reign, the New York Knicks added another.
While they were finishing off their second victory over the Celtics this week, injured forward Rasheed Wallace drew a large "50" on the board in their locker room, challenging them to strive for a 50-win season.
They're on pace to get that, too, in what's shaping up as their best season in two decades.
Carmelo Anthony had 24 points and 10 rebounds, and the Knicks extended their winning streak to eight games and moved closer to ending Boston's hold on the Atlantic Division title with a 108-89 victory Sunday night.
Coach Mike Woodson has talked about winning the division title since taking over last March, and Wallace has given the Knicks (46-26) another target.
"It's very doable for us and we have something to look forward to," Anthony said. "Fifty wins is always a great thing in this league to accomplish, winning a division is always a great thing to accomplish, a great accomplishment in this league. So them two things are definitely doable, we've just got to keep it moving, keep it going."
The Knicks won the season series for the first time since 2003-04, when they also went 3-1 against Boston. New York climbed back into a tie with Indiana in the race for the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, which would currently mean a playoff meeting with the Celtics.
"I think we're just clicking at the right time," swingman Iman Shumpert said. "Going in the playoffs, everybody's got a different focus. Guys got a little more pep in their step and everybody's locked in."
J.R. Smith, who had 30 points off the bench in his previous three games, finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds.
"We just didn't close out to their shooters," Pierce said. "We pretty much gave them everything they wanted. We opened up their shooters, we opened up their drives (and) we fouled them too much. I don't even know how to explain it. They just beat us to the punch."
Pierce turned his ankle in the first quarter and could sit out the Celtics' game at Minnesota on Monday.
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"It's just a little sore," Pierce said. "I turned it in the first quarter. It shouldn't be a problem."
After noting that Pierce had said he was fine, Celtics coach Doc Rivers said, "We're going to give him a rest, we're going to sit him games, for sure. Very soon."
Pressed on if that meant Monday's game, Rivers answered, "Probably."
New York opened a 4 ½-game lead over Brooklyn atop the Atlantic and dropped the Celtics to 8 ½ games back and the brink of elimination in the division race. Boston has won all five division titles since acquiring Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in the summer of 2007.
The Knicks, who won by 15 in Boston on Tuesday, haven't won a division title since the 1993-94 season, but a 12-6 March -- their most wins in that month since going 14-0 in that last division championship season -- has them on track.
"We all knew it was going to be a tough month and we're playing like we're trying to get something accomplished and that's winning our division and trying to secure that second spot," Woodson said.
The Knicks played their 10th straight game without Tyson Chandler, who has a bulging disk in his neck and hopes to return Tuesday. They flourished using a variety of small lineups, taking advantage of a Celtics team that has no inside presence, either, with Garnett continuing to rest a sore left ankle.
They believe a playoff meeting would be different with Garnett back. Boston swept New York in the first round in 2011.
"I feel like when we're healthy we can compete with anybody," Green said. "We can't get down on ourselves thinking that just because they beat us the last couple of times, that if we play them again that we have no chance. We have a chance on it, whoever we match up against."
Smith had averaged 26.4 points during the winning streak but shot just 4 of 12 Sunday. Still, New York controlled the game from early in the second quarter in the opener of a five-game stretch against likely playoff teams.
The Knicks shot 52 percent in the first quarter, got 12 points from Anthony and led 28-23. They opened it up with eight straight points early in the second to take a 42-32 lead on Steve Novak's 3-pointer. The Celtics trimmed the deficit to single digits just once in the half, which ended spectacularly when Felton threw in a buzzer-beater from just beyond half court to make it 65-48.
Knicks F Kenyon Martin sat out the latter part of the first half with a strained left abdominal muscle but returned to start the second. He threw up an airball on a third-quarter free throw but made the second, and sat out the fourth with the Knicks comfortably ahead. He insisted he could have returned. ... The Knicks also won eight in a row in the 1994-95 season. The last time they had a longer streak was a 15-game run late in the 1993-94 season.Information from ESPNBoston.com's Chris Forsberg and The Associated Press was used in this report.
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 31: Head coach Doc Rivers talks with Paul Pierce #34 of the Boston Celtics before the game...(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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MVP: Carmelo Anthony. Nothing spectacular (24 points on 19 shots to go along with 10 rebounds), but Melo's steady hand underscored a balanced Bocker attack -- a nice mix of smooth jumpers and determined takes to the tin.
X factor. 3-point shooting. The Knicks once again used a barrage of treys (14-for-26 on the night) to keep their opponent playing catch-up. 'Twas an equal-opportunity effort as well, with seven Knicks connecting from deep.
That was ... the first time the Knicks have taken a season series from the Celtics since, like, the Clinton Administration. Still, this short-handed squad likely won't be the one the Knicks face in a prospective playoff series. Enjoy, but beware.
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