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Feb 2, 11:31 PM EST

Celtics wear down Knicks for 97-89 victory


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AP Photo/Julie Jacobson

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NEW YORK (AP) -- The Celtics toughened up their defense and were simply too tough for the Knicks.

Isaiah Thomas had 20 points and eight assists, and Boston wore down New York in a 97-89 victory on Tuesday night.

Jae Crowder and Tyler Zeller each added 16 points, while reserves Evan Turner and Kelly Olynyk were also in double figures as the Celtics were fresher and sharper in dominating the final 15 minutes.

"Eventually we started wearing them down playing great defense, and we got stops and turned them into buckets," Turner said.

Turner had 14 points and 10 rebounds, and Olynyk scored 13 points in the Celtics' sixth victory in seven games.

"In the second half we did a better job in a lot of ways from a physicality standpoint and I thought we got them off the glass," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said.

Carmelo Anthony had 16 points and 14 rebounds but shot just 4 for 16 in the Knicks' sixth loss in seven games. Robin Lopez added 17 points and 13 rebounds, while Arron Afflalo ended a shooting slump with 18 points but had some careless turnovers.

"We just couldn't find a combination of guys that could sustain on both ends," Knicks coach Derek Fisher said.

The Celtics had scored at least 110 points in six straight games but the offense wasn't there in this one - they missed all 13 3-point attempts in the first half - so they turned to their defense after losing 119-114 to Orlando on Sunday. They held the Knicks to 37.8 percent shooting and forced 17 turnovers - well, some actually didn't look forced at all.

The Knicks raced to a 9-0 lead but threw away any chance of seizing control of the game by turning it over six times in the third quarter, including a hideous stretch of three turnovers in 24 seconds by Afflalo.

The Celtics broke away from a 64-all tie to lead 70-65 heading to the fourth, then opened the quarter with six straight points, sparked by Olynyk.

"The group really played poised at the end and countered any time they scored with a score, and then we got enough stops to salt it away," Stevens said.

The Knicks got it down to four, but consecutive jumpers by Turner midway through the period steadied the Celtics, who soon pushed it back into double digits again.

"We just couldn't get over the hump," Anthony said. "We made a push kind of in that third quarter and then we just couldn't kind of get over the hump."

Anthony fouled out in the final minute, with one of his fouls a rare flagrant on an offensive foul when he swung his arms to get into shooting position and caught Crowder in the face.

TIP-INS

Celtics: Crowder started at forward after being listed as questionable with a bruised right shin. ... Amir Johnson was also called for a flagrant foul.

Knicks: Starting point guard Jose Calderon missed his fourth straight game with a sore right groin but appears on the verge of returning. Fisher called Thursday's game at Detroit "realistic." ... Kristaps Porzingis was chosen the Eastern Conference rookie of the month for January. He and Minnesota's Karl-Anthony Towns, the No. 1 pick, have both won all three monthly honors this season.

PORZINGIS' PLAY

Porzingis averaged 15.3 points and 7.2 rebounds in January, but was just 4 for 11 for 10 points and five rebounds in his first February game.

MSG MEMORY

Tuesday was the seventh anniversary of Kobe Bryant's 61-point performance, which still stands as the opponent record at Madison Square Garden, in a Lakers victory. Boston's David Lee, then playing for the Knicks, remembers feeling Bryant was out to make a statement by the way he acted before the game and played once it started.

"I remember he hit his first like two shots, but just the way he hit them. I walked over to the bench to D'Antoni and I said, 'Something bad's about to happen. So we need to run a second defender at him, like in the first quarter,'" Lee said, referring to former Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni. "And Mike said, 'He can't beat us by himself.' He goes, 'We're going to have to settle for that.' And I'm a big Mike D'Antoni fan, but in that case he did beat us by himself. It was not a good ending to that game."

UP NEXT

Celtics: Host Detroit on Wednesday.

Knicks: Visit Detroit on Thursday.

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