BOSTON (AP) — Paul Pierce scored 29 points, Kevin Garnett had 22 and the Boston Celtics cruised to their third straight lopsided victory at home, 109-97 over the New York Knicks on Wednesday night.
And for the third straight home game, all five Boston starters watched the fourth quarter from the bench.
The Celtics led 32-19 after the first quarter, 68-49 at halftime and 92-69 after the third. Garnett’s jumper with 5:26 left in the second quarter gave them a 48-37 lead and they stayed ahead by double figures the rest of the way. Pierce’s basket midway through the third quarter gave Boston its biggest lead, 81-54.
David Lee led the Knicks with 29 points, and Al Harrington had 16.
Boston’s blowouts all came against struggling teams — 122-103 over Indiana and 119-93 over Detroit before the victory over the Knicks. But those first two wins were interrupted by a 104-93 loss at Cleveland, an indication that the Celtics may be improving but aren’t good enough to beat the best in the Eastern Conference.
On Wednesday, though, they dominated from the start and kept connecting as the Knicks kept allowing uncontested jumpers and layups.
The Knicks missed their first seven shots before Lee’s layup cut the lead to 9-4. Garnett sank his first six shots before finally missing with 3:15 left in the second quarter with the score 50-37.
Then Boston expanded the lead by making 3-pointers on three consecutive baskets — by Pierce, Ray Allen and Pierce again — that made it 61-44.
Lee hit the first basket of the third quarter, but Boston went on a 13-3 run and took its biggest lead, 81-54 on Pierce’s 15-foot fadeaway with 7:16 to go.
Pierce missed all of the first quarter after picking up his second foul just 1:51 into the game. He returned with 10:55 left in the second and had 13 points in the quarter.
Rajon Rondo had 12 assists in just 27 minutes and tied Bob Cousy for fifth place among Celtics players for assists in one season with 642. Cousy did it in 1954-55.
NOTES: Former Celtics G Eddie House missed the game with a sore right Achilles’ tendon. Knicks starting G Wilson Chandler sat out with a sore left groin. … The Celtics are 3-0 against the Knicks with one meeting left April 6 in New York. … Boston begins a three-game road trip in Houston on Friday then travels to Dallas and Utah. … New York had won its previous two games, both away from home and ended its road trip at 2-3 before facing Philadelphia on Friday, Houston on Sunday and Denver on Tuesday. … Boston’s reserves scored 35 points two nights after getting 61 against Detroit.