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While the Boston Celtics continue to slip slowly downward in the Eastern Conference standings, the New York Knicks have won eight straight (their longest winning streak since November 2010). In the latest matchup between these two teams, the disparate trajectories (and their sources) were on fully display.
The Celtics got absolutely nothing from anyone not named Paul Pierce or Jeff Green in their decisive 108-89 loss to the Knicks. Outside of Pierce and Green, the other three Boston starters combined for just six points on 3-of-11 shooting.
In contrast, the Knicks got their usual production from Carmelo Anthony (24 points and 10 rebounds), but also enjoyed 22 surprising points from Chris Copeland, 15 from J.R. Smith and 10 from Steve Novak.
New York hit 14-of-27 triples on the night, and seven different Knicks rang the long-distance register at least once.
The hot shooting and unselfish style (23 assists) that the Knicks used to wallop the stagnant, clunky Celtics has been a trademark of their recent run. If Tyson Chandler can return at something close to full strength, the Knicks may end up in as good of a position as anyone to tackle the Heat in an eventual playoff series.
The Celtics, though, are stumbling to the finish.
Kevin Garnett is banged up, Pierce is on an island and the cobbled-together reserves aren't producing consistently. At this rate, it's possible that the Celtics will stagger into the playoffs with a record below the .500 mark.
Pierce and Co. had better put Sunday's embarrassing beating out of their minds, quickly; if the season ended today, Boston and New York would be squaring off in a first-round series.