Rajon Rondo had a triple-double with a career-high 24 assists, and Paul Pierce scored 25 points with 14 rebounds on Friday night to lead the Boston Celtics to a 105-101 victory over the New York Knicks.
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Rondo had 10 points and 10 rebounds and topped his regular-season personal best of 18 assists set against Sacramento in March, but fell short of the franchise record of 28 set by Hall of Famer Bob Cousy in 1959.
Amare’ Stoudemire scored 27 for the Knicks, reserve Wilson Chandler had 19 and Raymond Felton scored 17. Landry Fields had 11 points and 10 rebounds in New York’s first loss after winning its opener on Wednesday.
Boston led most of the game before Stoudemire converted a three-point play with 37 seconds left to make it 102-98.
After Pierce hit one of two free throws — his first point of the quarter — Stoudemire hit a long 3-pointer to cut it to 103-101 with 18 seconds left.
But Pierce hit both free throws this time.
Kevin Garnett scored 24 points with 10 rebounds, and Glen Davis had 16 points and six rebounds in 24 minutes off the bench before fouling out with 2:33 left in the game.
With the much-hyped opener against LeBron James and the Miami Heat behind them, the Celtics got back to the long grind of the NBA regular season.
The crowd had come down from the excitement of the opener, which Boston won 88-80 (before losing the next night in Cleveland to the team James jilted). The signs mocking Miami were gone, along with the celebrities in the five-figure courtside seats.
So was the intensity on the court.
The Celtics were sluggish at the start and had 10 turnovers at the half (giving them 50 in their first 10 quarters). Boston trailed 15-6 before scoring 12 of the next 13 points.
Boston led 76-69 late in the third quarter when Toney Douglas hit a 3-pointer to pull the Knicks within four. But Pierce answered with a 3-pointer of his own.
Ray Allen opened the fourth with a basket, on an assist from Rondo, and Rondo set Davis up for a three-point play that gave the Celtics an 84-72 lead. The Knicks didn’t get within seven points until the final 37 seconds.
Notes: Jermaine O’Neal was scratched with a sore left knee. … Celtics coach Doc Rivers confirmed before the game that backup guards Von Wafer and Delonte West had a fight after the morning shootaround. Rivers said the team would handle it internally. … Rondo was honored before the game for making the all-defensive team and for leading the NBA with 189 steals last year. … Ray Allen reached the 21,000-point milestone in the second quarter. … Rondo twice had 19 assists in the playoffs.