BOSTON -- Carmelo Anthony and his Knicks teammates didn't know what to expect from the Celtics crowd in the first game between the two teams since Anthony and Garnett had their little spat on Jan. 7 in New York.
But what the New Yorkers DID know and always know is that Anthony has to score for the team to win. And that's what he did to lead the Knicks to an 89-86 win and send the Celtics to their fifth straight loss on Thursday night.
"It was cool. It was cool," Anthony said after scoring 28 points and grabbing nine rebounds as the first-place Knicks avenged the loss in New York with their third win in the last four games.
"We're on the road; to me, it just a matter of blocking everything out and really just locking in from a basketball standpoint and try not to even worry about the crowd and being on the road and things like that.
"It was just a matter of doing what I had to do, doing what we had to do to win this game."
Anthony was suspended for one game for trying to confront Garnett at the Boston bus after Garnett allegedly said something about Anthony's wife. That led to all kinds of speculation about what might happen Thursday night, and the NBA even sent in two high-powered refs to keep control of the game.
It wasn't necessary. Anthony and Garnett bumped fists before the opening tap and Anthony even helped Garnett off the floor at one point in the intensely played game.
"Because there's no grudges between myself and KG," Anthony said when asked why he helped his opponent up. "Whatever happened happened, it's over with. We spoke about that. It's over with. I don't hold grudges or anything like that. He fell, I helped him up. I don't have anything against a guy like that."
Anthony, scoring more than 20 points for the 27th straight game, two shy of the club record, was 6 of 26 from the floor in the loss to Boston on Jan. 7. He wasn't exactly on fire in the rematch, when he finished 11 of 28. But he was the constant focus of the Boston defense, and his pass to an open J.R. Smith led to Smith, 2 of 15 from the floor to that point, draining a 3-pointer that proved to be the difference with 1:11 left.
The win ended the Knicks' 13-game TD Garden losing streak dating to 2006.
The New York victory came on a night that Boston's Rajon Rondo had his fourth triple-double of the season, the 27th of his career (counting playoffs). Rondo, who didn't play the first time the teams met because of a suspension, scored 10 points down the stretch and finished with 23, 11 assists and 10 rebounds.
It wasn't enough as the Celtics slipped deeper into the abyss of this losing streak, a stretch that has come after a six-game winning streak. Boston is two games below .500.
"It's frustrating to lose when you give effort because you've got to keep convincing your guys if you play that way every night, you're going to make more shots than that," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers, who has been questioning his team's effort. "And you're going to win a lot of games. But right now they're sitting there thinking, 'We lost.' So they know it. They know with that effort you're going to win most nights."
Amar'e Stoudemire had 15 points, including a huge tip-in with 3:24 left, and nine rebounds off the New York bench. He said he expected the crowd to be a bit more hostile. As it was, it was tame, and there were plenty of Knicks fans.
"It wasn't bad at all. I was thinking the crowd was going to be a little more rude," he said with a smile. "But it wasn't."
The Celtics, behind Rondo, cut a 10-point lead to two and were down by two when Garnett (eight points, 12 rebounds) missed a jumper before Smith buried his trey. A couple of turnovers then sealed Boston's fate, the second by Paul Pierce, who failed to hit a field goal in the second half after scoring 19 first-half points.
NOTES: Before the game, New York's Tyson Chandler (five points, all during a 7-0 run at the end of the third quarter), learned he will be a first-time All-Star. "Very thankful," he said. ... Pierce was 6 of 15 from the floor, 1 of 5 from 3-point range. In the last six games, he is 30 of 89 (34 percent) overall and 5 of 28 from 3-point range. ... If you don't think the NBA was concerned about this game, consider this: longtime refs Dick Bavetta and Joey Crawford both worked the matchup, which ended with a decent 23 fouls on each team. ... After Sunday night's loss in Detroit, Rivers threatened roster changes if the club didn't turn things around. Before Thursday's game, he said, "I think we have what we need in the locker room. I'm just not getting it out of them." ... The Knicks haven't won the Atlantic Division since 1993-94. Rivers played for that team. ... New York is at Philadelphia on Friday, and the Celtics are at Atlanta on Friday before the return of Ray Allen with the Heat on Sunday. ... Anthony has filed an appeal through the Players' Association attempting to regain the $176,000 he was docked for the one-game suspension in the Garnett affair. In honor of the Jan. 7 fun, green T-shirts reading "Carmelo Honey Nut Cheerios" were being sold for $25 outside. CSNNE tweeted, "Can't believe the Celtics confiscated everyone's Honey Nut Cheerios gear. Is it really that bad? People just having fun." ... Both teams wore "NBA Fit" warm-ups to kick off NBA Fit Live Healthy Week, to, in the words of Chandler, "Motivate fans of all ages to live healthier lives."