By Dave Buscema, The Sports Xchange
NEW YORK -- The Boston Celtics had the last word on the court after some tough talk between Kevin Garnett and Knicks star Carmelo Anthony, but Anthony reportedly tried to continue the conversation after the game.
The pair of stars had engaged in a tussle that resulted in a double technical foul in the intense fourth quarter of the Celtics' 102-96 victory at Madison Square Garden on Monday night. Afterwards, MSG Network reported Anthony screamed as he headed toward the Celtics' locker room after the game.
Boston coach Doc Rivers declined to elaborate on the post-game incident, but when asked about Anthony coming to the Celtics' locker room, the coach indicated there was something to talk about.
"I'm gonna stay out of that," Rivers said. "If it was the playoffs, I'd tell on him, but since it's not, I'll just keep it quiet."
Anthony, who was held to 20 points and clearly was frustrated by Garnett's physical play, left the arena without speaking to the media for the first time this season.
Garnett said the players' on-court altercation was just about the "heat of the battle." Asked about any post-game incident, Garnett dismissed the question, saying, "No, man, just basketball, just basketball."
Paul Pierce scored 23 points and Garnett added 19 to give the Celtics their third straight win.
Monday's victory came without point guard Rajon Rondo, who was suspended for the third time in less than a year. The league announced the suspension was for making contact with a game official and failure to cooperate with a league investigation related to an incident in Saturday's game against the Atlanta Hawks.
The first battle of the season between the five-time defending Atlantic Division champion Celtics and the upstart Knicks became increasingly tense and physical midway through the fourth quarter when Garnett and Anthony got into a jawing match. The intensity picked up from there.
But the Celtics outlasted the Knicks, thanks largely to a back-breaking jumper by Pierce as the shot clock expired for a 100-94 lead with 45 seconds left.
Anthony, who had his lowest point total since Nov. 16, hit two free throws, and Celtics guard Jason Terry -- in the lineup with Rondo out -- was ruled to have stepped out of bounds, but the officials then said Terry called timeout before doing so.
Garnett hit two free throws after the timeout to seal the game for the Celtics.
"The last three games have been terrific," Rivers said. "Winning this game here without Rondo tells you our guys hung in there."
J.R. Smith led the Knicks with 24 points, but he was bleeding and bandaged in the final minutes after getting fouled and required stitches after the game due to a hard foul by Avery Bradley. Smith said after the game he thought the play was inadvertent and attributed it to the fact both players were "aggressive."
Boston went on a 6-2 run to open a 98-93 lead on a layup by Bradley with 1:59 left.
Leading 76-72 entering the fourth quarter, the Celtics started the period on a 6-2 run for an 82-74 lead.
The Knicks responded with a 12-4 run to tie the game, as tensions and the volume raised at the Garden.
Anthony had struggled from the field for most of the game, but he brought the Knicks to within 82-78 on a 3-pointer. Shortly after that, Anthony tangled with Garnett, seeming to give him a shove under the basket, and the players began jawing with each other before getting called for the double technical.
Garnett had played Anthony physically and Knicks forward Amar'e Stoudemire also said Garnett was trash-talking to get into Anthony's head.
As they were separated, Garnett made a motion with his fingers to indicate Anthony was talking a lot.
"It happened with me a few times with Garnett," Stoudemire said of when he was younger. "He takes you out of your game."
But Anthony, who made only six of 26 shots from the field, responded after the altercation by hitting a 3-pointer while the intensified crowd chanted an anti-Boston slogan. Jason Kidd then scored the Knicks' next five points, including an open 3-pointer off an assist from Smith following a steal, and the game was tied 86-86 with 6:41 left.
Anthony was called for his fourth foul with 3:24 left in the third, when he was physical while trying to defend Jeff Green. Anthony looked frustrated by the call, but he hit the bench for the rest of the period.
He appeared frustrated in general, with one of his least productive games of the season on the heels of him getting named Eastern Conference Player of the Week.
"I think we got into his body," Pierce said. "We didn't give him a lot of space. ... (We) tried to give him different looks from the zone. Got a bigger guy on him."
Following the game, Anthony exited the opposite end as he normally would, which put him closer to the Celtics' locker room.
Knicks coach Mike Woodson declined to comment on the reported post-game incident and several Knicks said they didn't see anything.
NOTES: Rivers said he didn't expect Rondo's suspension because the official Rondo made contact with didn't call a technical foul at the time. But Rivers acknowledged Rondo's reputation did not help him. "You know the old saying, you're not given a reputation, you earn one," Rivers said. Asked if he was worried about that reputation growing for Rondo, Rivers replied, "I'm not worried about it because it's already here. We just work on it every day." ... Knicks guard Iman Shumpert (torn left ACL and meniscus) could practice Tuesday pending results of medical tests he underwent Monday, coach Mike Woodson said.