They did it Monday night with Allen Houston and Keith Van Horn sidelined, winning 94-88 after trailing by 10 points at halftime. One week earlier, the two stars played major roles as the Knicks beat the Celtics after trailing by 16 at intermission.
The key, said New York forward Clarence Weatherspoon, is to shoot the ball when the opportunity is there.
“When you’re short-handed, you just have to feel confident enough to let it go,” he said. “We did some things that led to easy baskets and put them on their heels.”
Shandon Anderson led the Knicks with a season-high 28 points. Dikembe Mutombo had four blocks, moving him into fifth place with a career total of 2,896, two more than former Knick Patrick Ewing, who preceded him at Georgetown.
“He’ll be the first man I’ll call,” Mutombo said. “It’s a nice commentary on my career.”
One week earlier, Houston and Van Horn combined for 47 points as the Knicks came back to beat the Celtics 89-86 in New York. Van Horn had 13 points in the third quarter when the Knicks trimmed a 54-38 halftime deficit to 72-66.
But on Monday, Houston missed his second straight game with a sore lower back, and Van Horn, missed his fifth in a row with a sprained right ankle.
The Celtics also blew a 51-42 halftime lead last Friday and lost in Philadelphia 87-85.
“We go into the locker room saying we have to pick it up,” Boston forward Vin Baker said, “and, behold, we come out in the third quarter and it slips away. It may be we’re thinking too much about it.”
The Celtics’ troubles intensified when Pierce went to the bench with four fouls with 8:29 left in the third quarter., Boston led 54-50 at the time but was outscored 25-9 as Pierce sat out the rest of the period. Anderson had 10 points in the quarter.
“Right now I’m not restricted on offense. I’ve been able to get my shots,” Anderson said. “Our defense was what allowed us to come back.”
Pierce returned to start the fourth, but New York led 75-63 by then.
“They can’t always depend on me,” Pierce said. “When a team starts to push us we don’t push back and we’ve got to play with some toughness. Right now I think we are one of the softest teams in the league.”
On Monday, the Knicks broke a four-game losing streak in Boston with their second win in seven road games this season.
“We challenged over 50 percent of the shots in the first half and then only 34 percent in the second half,” Boston coach Jim O’Brien said. “I thought we got down on ourselves a little bit when they came back and took the lead.”
The Celtics, whose biggest lead was 20-7, fell behind for the first time, 55-54, on Eisley’s 3-pointer with 8:00 left in the third quarter. Boston’s Marcus Banks hit a jumper, making it 66-63, with 3:03 left in the period.
Then New York got the last nine points of the quarter on a 3-pointer by Eisley and baskets by Anderson, Mutombo and Thomas.
The Celtics made it 92-88 with 44 seconds left on two 3-pointers by Eric Williams. After a New York turnover, Mike James’ 3-point attempt for Bostonmissed with 12 seconds to go and Eisley ended the scoring with a layup.
The Knicks were 4-of-24 from the field in the first quarter and trailed 24-15. … Jiri Welsch, obtained in a preseason trade that sent Antoine Walker to Dallas, made his first start of the season for Boston. … Keith Foulke, the free-agent closer who pitched last season for the Oakland Athletics, attended the game with Boston Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein. Foulke is one of the team’s top priorities after a season of inconsistent relief. … Boston had itsfourth different starting lineup in 13 games.