A triple tag-team of Carmelo Anthony and reserves J.R. Smith and Steve Novak buried the Celtics in a rollicking, 118-110 victory at the giddy Garden, keeping the Knicks’ slim division title hopes alive for at least another couple of days.
Anthony posted his second career triple-double, with 35 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists, many of them occurring on Novak and Smith bombs. Anthony’s only other triple-double came with Denver in 2007.
Anthony J. Causi
Smith and Novak each had 25 points off the bench and the trio led the Knicks to a wild, season-high 72-point first half. Center Tyson Chandler also contributed 20 points, dominating inside with nine of 10 buckets.
”I had nine and nine before,’’ Anthony said. “I’ve been missing it throughout my whole career. But tonight, coming into a game like this, it wasn’t me. It was Novak and J.R. making those shots. They wouldn’t have made the shots, I wouldn’t have had the triple-double.’’
Novak finished 8-of-10 from 3-point land, including back-to-back triples that knocked the Celtics out for good in the final three minutes. Smith was 7 of 10 from beyond the arc and scored 21 first-half points. The Knicks bagged 19 triples on the night — one off their franchise record — in a dizzying display reminiscent of the Mike D’Antoni era.
“He is the best 3-point shooter in our league,’’ Smith said of Novak. “It is not even close. People are starting to catch on to it, but not fast enough. To be honest, when I get the ball, he’s the first person I’m trying to find.’’
The victory pulled the Knicks within three games of the Celtics in the loss column of the Atlantic Division standings with five games remaining. The Knicks will have to win out to get there, but they mathematically stayed alive. For now, the Knicks (32-29) are in seventh place and would line up against the Heat in the opening round of the playoffs.
Smith said he and Novak battle in 3-point shooting contests during practice.
“It’s fun and he does actually win,’’ Smith said. “Even today, I was 7-of- 10. He was 8-of-10. He won again.’’
As the 3-point bombs fell in the first half, with the Knicks making 14 of 21 and building a 72-53 lead, the Garden was at its loudest all season.
“The fans really get into it,’’ Smith said. “You can feel the roar. It is a great feeling. When you are playing at home, it is great, period, when you play here at the Garden. It is indescribable.’’