Rapid Reaction: Celtics 102, Knicks 96

WHAT IT MEANS: The Celtics didn't have Rajon Rondo on Monday night, but they still had Knick killer Paul Pierce.

Pierce provided a veteran presence for the Celtics down the stretch of a close game, scoring six key points in the final 7:37 -- after the Knicks had pulled within one -- to help bury the Knicks.

With Boston up four and 1:09 to play, Pierce (23 points) essentially buried the Knicks with a deep jumper over the outstretched hand of Tyson Chandler to put the C's (17-17) up six with 0:45 seconds to play.

It was a good night for Boston's star, who averaged 35.7 points against the Knicks (23-11) last year. But a bad night for Knicks star Carmelo Anthony.

Anthony finished with 20 points but struggled with his shot for most of the night. He missed his last four field goal attempts in the fourth and finished just 6-for-26. He went 2-for-10 in the fourth. He entered play averaging 29.3 points per night. The Celtics have won three straight.

DOUBLE TROUBLE: Anthony and Kevin Garnett were whistled for a double technical for arguing with one another three minutes into the fourth. The Garden erupted with the familiar "Boston [Stinks]" chant and then exploded when Anthony hit a 3 on the next possession to pull the Knicks within one at 82-81 with 8:45 to play.

Anthony and Garnett had to be separated on two separate occasions down the stretch. No love lost there.

Anthony walked off the floor without shaking any of the Celtics' hands.

AMAR'E IMPROVING: Amar'e Stoudemire seemed to take a step in the right direction in his fourth game back following left knee surgery.

The power forward finished with 13 points in a season-high 28 minutes. He had two rebounds and two assists.

Stoudemire came off the bench to a rousing ovation but, more importantly, played in most of the fourth quarter.

He had a mix of strong moves to the basket and possessions on which he lacked explosiveness, which is to be expected for a player who missed two months.

Stoudemire had a strong dunk on a drive on Garnett early in the fourth quarter. He also drew a foul on a dunk attempt with 10:24 to play.

He had a tough time getting to the rim on a move on Brandon Bass in the first half and had his shot blocked by Garnett, but officials ruled it goaltending.

PRIGIONI TECH: Pablo Prigioni's been a complete gentleman on the floor for the Knicks this season. But the 35-year-old rookie lost his cool late in the third quarter. He picked up his first NBA technical after kicking the ball following a Boston make. … New York was outscored in the paint, 40-28. J.R. Smith had 24 points on 7-for-17 shooting. He suffered a cut on his head in the fourth quarter after a collision with Avery Bradley. … Tyson Chandler had 13 points and 16 rebounds. … Garnett had 19 and nine rebounds. … Boston shot 53 percent from the floor.

WHAT'S NEXT: The Knicks will have a couple days to practice before heading to Indiana to face the Pacers for the first time this season on Thursday. They then come home to take on the Bulls in a rematch of a game in which Anthony, Rasheed Wallace and Mike Woodson were ejected.

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