Carmelo Anthony scored 28 points to lead the Knicks over the Celtics , 89-86, Thursday night at TD Garden. Rajon Rondo  had 23 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists in collecting his 27th career triple-double and his fourth this season for the Celtics, who lost their fifth straight. The Celtics lost five straight twice last season before rallying at the end of the season for a 37-29 record and the Atlantic Division title.
They might not be as lucky this season, as the Atlantic-leading Knicks improved to 26-14, seven games ahead of the 20-22 Celtics in the division.
There were no war of words or trash-talking incidents between Kevin Garnett  and Anthony, who greeted each other with a fist-pound at the beginning of the game. Anthony even helped Garnett up from the floor after Garnett hit the deck early in the third quarter.
The Celtics managed a 24-20 lead after one quarter, despite shooting just 10-of-26 (38.5 percent) from the field. The Knicks started the second quarter on fire, opening on a 9-0 run and scoring 11 of the first 12 points in the period to take a 31-25 lead. But the Celtics answered as Paul Pierce  started to dominate.
The Celtics went on a 15-3 run to take a 40-34 lead. The Knicks rebounded and managed a 50-48 halftime lead on a pair of free throws with 7.1 seconds left by Amar’e Stoudemire. Rondo missed a layup just before the buzzer that would’ve tied the game. Still Doc Rivers  pounded his fist in the air and appeared happy with his team’s effort.
Rivers was particularly pleased with the fact that the Celtics held Anthony to just 4-for-13 shooting in the first 24 minutes.
Jeff Green ‘s three gave Boston a 66-65 lead with just over two minutes left in the third but the Knicks closed the third fast, going on a 7-0 run. Anthony started to heat up with eight points in the third quarter, including a 10-foot pull-up jumper as the shot clock was running down, putting the Knicks up, 70-66. Tyson Chandler  hit a pair of free throws with 31.8 seconds left to give New York a 72-66 lead. The Celtics did not handle the end of the third very well, as Garnett forced a three as the shot clock wound down and Jason Terry  could only manage a desperate three after getting a loose ball rebound and having a clean look.
Anthony and Pablo Prigioni hit consecutive 3-pointers to open the fourth and extend their lead to 10, 80-70, with just over eight minutes left. Rondo reached his triple-double midway through the fourth on a feed to Avery Bradley  for a layup. Rondo then led the Celtics within two, 84-82, with under four minutes left.
Stoudemire’s tip-in with 3:20 left pushed the Knicks’ lead back to four. Rondo drew a charge on Anthony with 1:53 left and the crowd was on its feet. With a chance to tie the game, Garnett’s open 16-footer rimmed out with 90 seconds left. That was followed by a three from JR Smith with 1:11 left to make it 89-84. Rondo hit a jumper with 39.5 seconds left to make it 89-86 New York. Jason Kidd  missed a three and Jeff Green grabbed the rebound to give Boston a chance to tie with 13.1 left. But Pierce mishandled the ball on a turnover with 7.1 seconds left that ended any chance for the Celtics. Pierce committed a pair of turnovers down the stretch.
The Celtics left immediately after the game for Atlanta and a Friday night date with the Hawks. The Celtics will return home for a nationally televised Sunday matinee at the Garden against LeBron James  and the Heat at 1 p.m.
For more, including video from Rondo, Anthony and Pierce, visit the Celtics team page at weei.com/celtics .