NEW YORK (AP) — Danilo Gallinari scored a career-high 31 points, including the go-ahead basket with 36 seconds left, Earl Barron had 17 points and a career-best 18 rebounds, and the New York Knicks beat the Boston Celtics 104-101 on Tuesday night.
David Lee had the clinching basket and added 13 points and 11 boards for the Knicks, who won their second straight and temporarily avoided a third consecutive 50-loss season.
Ray Allen scored 17 points for the Celtics, who blew a chance to tie Atlanta for third place in the Eastern Conference. Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins each added 14 for Boston, which botched its final possession and couldn’t get a tying 3-point attempt off in the final seconds.
The Celtics followed their victory over Cleveland on Sunday by losing for the fourth time in five games after leading early in the fourth quarter behind a spark from former Knicks guard Nate Robinson.
Gallinari scored 19 points in the third quarter to give the Knicks an 86-78 lead, but Robinson hit a 3-pointer and assisted on Glen Davis’ jumper in the Celtics’ 10-0 run to start the fourth that gave them an 88-86 advantage on Michael Finley’s 3-pointer.
Robinson hit another jumper for a one-point lead midway through the period, and it stayed tight from there. Gallinari banked in a long jumper — originally called a 3-pointer but overturned after replay — for a 102-101 lead with 36 seconds left.
Chris Duhon came up with a steal and set up David Lee’s basket that made it 104-101 with 7.3 seconds to play. The Celtics called time but took way too long to swing the ball to the opposite side of the court, where Rasheed Wallace caught it too late to get off a shot.
With Tracy McGrady (sore left knee) and Al Harrington (sore left ankle) joining Wilson Chandler (sore left groin) on the injured list, the Knicks had to look deep down the bench for scoring. They found it in Barron, a 7-foot center who signed last week from the NBA Development League and was playing his second game with New York. He hadn’t started in the NBA since making 15 starts for the Miami Heat in 2007-08, but shot 8 of 13 and spent all night chasing down missed shots against Boston’s frustrated front line.
Robinson was perhaps the Knicks’ most popular player for the last five years before he was dealt to Boston at the trade deadline. Celtics coach Doc Rivers said he still considers the 5-foot-9 guard the Celtics’ X-factor heading into the playoffs, but he benched Robinson on Sunday after playing him only 9 minutes in the previous game.
However, he said before the game Robinson would play Tuesday, in part because other Boston players wanted to see Robinson get in.
Robinson checked in — or tried to, anyway — with about 3½ minutes left in the first quarter to polite, but hardly enthusiastic applause. He was sent off the court because he was replacing Rajon Rondo, who was shooting a free throw, and had to wait until the next dead ball to officially enter.
The Knicks led throughout most of the first quarter and were ahead 27-21 when it ended. Boston shot 63 percent in the second, briefly grabbing the lead late in the period before New York took a 53-52 edge into halftime.