‘Melo vs. Garnett sideshow is dull, Knicks’ hard-fought win is not

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Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Garnett played nice. In fact, in the third quarter Garnett went to the floor trying to complete an alley-oop and it was Anthony who was there to lend a hand and help him back up. There were no fireworks, no ejections, nothing. They may not be going out for a beer together afterwards, but the sideshow turned out to be nothing special.

But the game itself was special. Or at least a lot of fun.

If Rasheed Wallace were there with New York, he would have said “both teams played hard.” There was nearly the passion of a playoff game from both teams.

The Knicks just played a little less sloppy and hit their shots down the stretch, so they came away with an 89-86 win.

That would be five straight losses for the Celtics, who drop two games below .500 but remain the eighth seed in the East. The second seed Knicks improved to 26-14 on the season.

Anthony got his points but the improved Celtics defense made it rough on him — ‘Melo had 28 points but was just 11-of-28 shooting on the night. Without Raymond Felton (still out with a broken finger) the Knicks end up resorting to a lot more ‘Melo isolation late in the clock and that is just never efficient. Wasn’t in Denver, wasn’t last season, isn’t now. The Celtics defense as a whole looked active and energetic, holding New York to 38.6 percent shooting.

Their offense just couldn’t do anything about it.

Rajon Rondo is trying to get the offense moving, and he had 23 points (on 19 shots), 11 assists and 10 rebounds — his fourth triple-double of the season. But take him out of the equation and the rest of the Celtics shot 36.8 percent. Rondo is the straw that stirs the Celtics drink, but there is only so much he can do to bring everyone along.

Look at their possessions in the final four minutes and you see how it is all Rondo: Rondo hits an elbow pull up jumper; Rondo drove and drew a foul from Amare Stoudemire; Paul Pierce passes up good look 18 footer to tie it instead passing to Avery Bradley for a corner three he missed; Garnett misses a contested midrange jumper; J.R. Smith reaches in and tips the ball on a handoff to Rondo and it goes out of bounds off Boston; Rondo nails a step-back 17 footer; Pierce boots the ball out of bounds as he is hounded by Smith.

Smith also had a key three late. It was a true gunner’s shot — he was 2-of-15 on the night when he caught the ball but he let it go without hesitation or memory of the past misses and he drained it.

This was the kind of ugly, defensive-minded game the Celtics won in recent years. Their defense would carry them through their offensive lulls. This year it’s just not working, the offensive lulls are too long, the defense isn’t consistent enough.

The Knicks, they are winning ugly. And in a game that felt like the playoffs they will take it.