NEW YORK (AP)—It had been a year and a half since the Boston Celtics won three straight, so Doc Rivers didn’t care if Saturday night’s victory was pretty or not.
“At the end of the day, we won the game and I got to use a joke that I’ve had saved up for some time,” Rivers said. “The Web site is back up— www.threeinarow.com. It’s about time, it’s been down for a whole year.”
The Celtics last won three straight during a four-game winning streak from April 12-17, 2005.
The Knicks trailed by 20 points in the third quarter but came back to briefly lead 101-100 on Stephon Marbury’s layup. Sebastian Telfair’s layup gave Boston the lead for good, 102-101 with 3:41 left in the game.
“I don’t know what to say. It was a win, it was a not a pretty win,” Rivers said. “It was not a pretty game.”
Pierce was 10-for-23 from the field and hit 18 of 22 free throws. He scored 10 points in the Celtics’ big third quarter and added another 19 in the final period, but pointed at Gomes’ performance.
“He’s like a guy that is like a glue guy,” Pierce said. “He’s a guy that doesn’t demand the ball, but he’s a guy that can get the job done.”
Wally Szczerbiak added 20 despite fouling out in the fourth quarter and Telfair had 19.
Knicks coach Isiah Thomas was ejected for the first time this season with 2:15 left in the fourth quarter and the Knicks trailing 106-102. Referee Joe DeRosa tossed Thomas for arguing a foul committed moments earlier by Nate Robinson on Telfair, who gave the Celtics 108-102 lead with two free throws.
“We’re at home, and it speaks for itself,” Thomas said. “Boston was a lot better at playing small than we were. They were just better than we were tonight, and you have to give them credit.”
After strong defensive play sparked convincing victories over the Washington Wizards and Miami Heat, the Knicks looked as if they were on their way to their third consecutive win before falling apart after halftime.
“They got out and we got behind,” Thomas said.
New York built an early 10-0 lead in the first quarter, pushing the ball every time Boston missed a shot. But after the Celtics called a timeout with 9:03 remaining, Szczerbiak led a 16-1 run by scoring 10 points.
“We made a nice run to start the game,” Knicks forward David Lee said. “They made a nice counter run. Unfortunately, they were the ones that threw the final punch and we able to beat us.”
The teams exchanged the lead in the second quarter, but the Knicks took the lead into the half on seven straight points by Crawford which were aided by two steals and a blocked shot by rookie Renaldo Balkman.
“What we said at halftime was we took quick shot after quick shot,” Rivers said. “We never attacked the basket. In my opinion, we bailed them out because we didn’t make them play defense in the first half. We just took quick shots and that’s not how we won the two games previous.”
Balkman rejected Pierce’s layup and Pierce was charged with a technical foul for arguing. Crawford’s free throw on the technical increased New York’s lead to 56-51 before Pierce’s basket just before the buzzer. ^Notes: Former Knicks star Patrick Ewing arrived with five minutes left before halftime and was cheered by the fans. Ewing exchanged pleasantries with fans on his way to his seat on celebrity row. He was shown at the beginning of the fourth quarter and received a standing ovation. … Robinson and Telfair were both charged with double technicals fouls midway through the fourth quarter.