Another Atlantic Division title will have to wait. A record-setting 3-point barrage by the Knicks put the undermanned Celtics  in a hole Paul Pierce  couldn’t even dig them out of in a 118-110 defeat at Madison Square Garden.
Pierce (43 pionts, 11-19 FG, 4-6 3P, 17-18 FT) became the first Celtics player to eclipse 40 points since he scored 50 on Feb. 15, 2006, but Knicks reserves J.R. Smith (25 points, 7-10 3P) and Steve Novak (25 points, 8-10 3P) helped New York set an NBA record for 3-point field goals off the bench in a remarkable effort.
Carmelo Anthony‘s triple-double (35 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists) and Tyson Chandler ‘s inside presence (20 points, 7 rebounds) also contributed to a 56.8 shooting night for the Knicks.
With the bench getting outscored 55-2, the Celtics dropped to 36-26 despite quality offensive nights from Rajon Rondo  (13 points, 13 assists, 6 rebounds) — who recorded 10-plus assists for the 23rd straight game — Kevin Garnett  (20 points), Avery Bradley  (17 points) and Brandon Bass  (15 points).
The Knicks (32-29) moved a game ahead of the 76ers (31-30), who lost to the Pacers (40-22), so the C’s magic number for the division title and the Eastern Conference’s fourth seed remains at one. They also dropped a game back in the loss column behind the idle Magic (36-25) and Hawks (36-25), who would own homecourt advantage as the fifth seed should they finish with a better record.
WHAT WENT WRONG
New York 3 party: When the horn mercifully signaled halftime, the Knicks had made 14-of-21 3-pointers (66.7%) — including 11 in the second quarter — to enter the break with a 72-53 advantage after the worst defensive 24 minutes of the Celtics season. Victimized by J.R. Smith (7-9 3P) and Steve Novak (4-6 3P) helped the Knicks tie records for treys both in a half and a quarter, and the 14 triples tied the most the C’s allowed in a game all season.
Finishing touches: Led by the starting backcourt duo of Bradley and Rondo, the Celtics staked themselves to a 24-17 advantage with 3:38 remaining in the first quarter, but Anthony led a Knicks charge that resulted in a 32-26 deficit after the opening 12 minutes. Anthony finished the frame with 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting.
Forwards, backwards: The ailments of Ray Allen  (ankle) and Mickael Pietrus  (knee) forced Celtics coach Doc Rivers  to start the second quarter with a lineup that included Marquis Daniels , Sasha Pavlovic  and Keyon Dooling . That translated into the Knicks putting the finishing touches on an 18-0 run (and 23-2 overall) that began in the first quarter. And that was before New York’s 3-point onslaught really got going.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Backcourt boys: If not for New York’s ridiculous long-range aim in the opening 24 minutes, the first-half 3-point shooting of Bradley and Rondo may have been a bigger story. The two combined for perfect 6-of-6 shooting beyond the arc. In the first half alone, Bradley recorded 14 points (5-6 FG, 4-4 3P) while Rondo totaled 11 points (4-5 FG, 2-2 3P) and 9 assists.
Truth is: Playing the entire third quarter, Pierce scored 17 of his 43 points. His three straight free throws led a charge from the starters that cut the Knicks lead to 81-71, and then a late 3-pointer helped the Celtics remain within 12 despite at times limping on his injured toe and carrying the bench to end the third quarter trailing 96-84.
Surviving a scare: Also in the third quarter, vying for a rebound with Chandler, Rondo fell hard on his tailbone and lay on the Garden floor for a few minutes that seemed like hours. Perhaps saved by the padded spandex he wears under his shorts, Rondo returned the game — with help from trainer Ed Lacerte and strength coach Bryan Doo — but moved gingerly throughout the fourth quarter. Still, while Rondo may be sore on Wednesday when the Celtics host the Magic, the initial fall looked as though things could have been much worse.