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Hard to say that the Knicks are in a slump, because slumps only happen to good teams.

Right now, the Knicks aren't a good team.

In another disheartening loss to one of the poorer teams in the East, Paul Pierce scored 31 points and Antoine Walker added 23 points, 15 rebounds and five assists as Boston beat the Knicks 92-86 Thursday night to snap a 15-game losing streak in New York.

Not since Jan. 10, 1993, had the Celtics won at Madison Square Garden.

"It's bad, trust me, but it's hard to say how bad," Latrell Sprewell said of the Knicks, who have lost four of five games. "It's not good, but it's not time to push the panic button just yet. We don't want to see that."

The loss was a humiliating one for the floundering Knicks, who were outplayed in every facet of the game and were booed off the court. It was the 16th time this season they have been held below 90 points, the fourth time in the last five games.

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  • Allan Houston shot just 2-for-12 and scored four points, Sprewell committed six of New York's 17 turnovers and Marcus Camby left after just 10 minutes with a strained groin.

    Glen Rice was the only bright spot for the Knicks, scoring 32 points.

    "We're not playing with a lot of passion," Houston said. "It's like we're not determined to go out and make the game what it was when we were winning and playing well a few days ago. Now, we're trying to figure it out when we're out there. It's like our minds are a little cloudy right now."

    Boston improved its road record to 2-8 and wofor the first time in six tries on the second night of back-to-back games.

    The victory was the second straight for the Celtics after four consecutive losses. Only an unlikely overtime victory over Milwaukee has kept New York from being in the midst of a five-game slide.

    "It seems like we're out there trying too hard to figure out what's wrong instead of just playing and having fun," Sprewell said.

    With Pierce and Walker dominating offensively, Boston opened a 14-point lead early in the fourth quarter. The Celtics let the Knicks creep within seven but Walker scored twice in a row on layups and was fouled both times to give them a 77-65 lead.

    A jumper by Pierce and a layup by Randy Brown with 5:31 left got the lead back up to 14, and Pierce reached 30 points on a tough leaner from the lane that made it 85-71 with 3:17 left.

    Sprewell and Rice hit consecutive 3-pointers with just under a minute left to get the deficit down to 87-81, but Eric Williams grabbed an offensive rebound after Randy Brown missed the second of two free throws, and the Knicks then committed a turnover on an offensive foul by Houston after Pierce missed a pair from the line with 25 seconds left.

    "They're putting a lot of pressure on themselves as a team," Walker said. "We knew if we could stay with them early their confidence would go because of the way things have been going with them for the last few games."

    The Knicks took an early 19-9 lead as the Celtics came out lethargic, but the roles soon were reversed. Pierce scored 10 straight Celtics points midway through the second quarter as Boston took a 42-40 lead, and Boston had a 17-0 run bridging the second and third quarters to take a 54-40 lead.

    Pierce scored 11 more in the third as the Celtics maintained a comfortable advantage, and it was 72-58 less than two minutes into the fourth quarter after Adrian Griffin hit a 3-pointer.

    Notes

  • Larry Johnson returned for New York after missing four games with a strained knee ligament. He had four points and five rebounds in 30 minutes.
  • Camby pulled a groin muscle late in the second quarter and did not return.
  • No Knicks opponent has reached 100 points for 21 straight games.
  • Milt Palacio started at point guard for Boston with Brown backing him up. Kenny Anderson saw eight minutes of action as the third-stringer.


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