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Knicks Rally To Beat Celtics 120-114

NEW YORK -- With their two best players not on the court for most of the second half, the New York Knicks rallied for a gritty 120-114 win over their Atlantic Division rival Boston Celtics on Tuesday at Madison Square Garden.

Leading scorer Carmelo Anthony left the game early in the third quarter with a sprained right ankle and rookie forward Kristaps Porzingis played just eight minutes in the second half before fouling out with 2:44 to play.

So it was up to the reserves and shooting guard Arron Afflalo to help the Knicks (20-20) win their fifth game out of the last seven and get to the .500 mark for the first time since December 19th.

The win leapfrogged the Knicks over the Celtics for ninth place in the Eastern Conference standings. New York is one game behind the Orlando Magic for the final spot in the conference playoffs. The Knicks were 17-65 last season and finished last in the conference.

Porzingis led the Knicks with 26 points, but Afflalo poured in 24 points, 10 in the fourth quarter, and rookie back-up point guard Jerian Grant scored 10 of his career-best 16 points in the fourth to help stave off the pesky Celtics (19-19).

Grant also dished out eight assists, six in the final quarter.

"Jerian (Grant) was big," said Knicks coach Derek Fisher. "He made plays for himself and other people and that really impacted the game in a major way.

"To play against the type of guards that the Celtics put out on the floor and not turn the basketball over is a pretty good effort. His facial expressions don't really change. He has the same kind of attitude and the same daily disposition."

Forward Derrick Williams was another key contributor off the Knicks bench, scoring 15 points and grabbing 10 rebounds for his first double-double of the season. His fast-break dunk off a feed from Grant gave the Knicks a 110-107 cushion with 1:53 left in the game.

Boston was led by guard Isaiah Thomas' 34 points. He was 11-of-12 from the line. Forward Jae Crowder tossed in 21 points and center Jared Sullinger added 14 points off the bench.

"We have to play better as a team," admitted Boston coach Brad Stevens. "We have to get more stops, we have to do all kinds of things. Isaiah (Thomas) is a high-level player and without him we would struggle to create offense.

"We have a lot of other guys who can do a lot of other things, too. We just have to do them better and handle the details better."

A free throw from Crowder gave Boston a 107-106 edge with 2:44 to play before the Knicks outscored the Celtics 14-7 the rest of the way. Grant scored seven of those points.

A traditional three-point play from Sullinger cut the Knicks lead to 99-97 with 5:11 remaining, but the Knicks reeled off seven straight points to push their lead to 106-97 with 3:38 left.

A short jumper from Sullinger drew the Celtics even at 88-88 with 9:45 to play. Boston had trailed by as many as eight points early in the third quarter.

The Celtics took advantage of Anthony's absence, outscoring the Knicks 32-26 in the third, to pull within 85-81 heading into the final quarter.

Anthony tumbled to the floor after stepping on an official's foot running up court late in the second quarter. He left the game with 1:16 left in the half and the Knicks leading 57-45.

Anthony returned for the second half with his right ankle taped, but returned to the locker room after just 20 seconds when he wasn't able to make a quick cut.

He finished with 17 points, four rebounds and three assists in 17 minutes.

Fisher said Anthony would be a game-time decision on Wednesday when the Knicks travel across the Hudson River to meet the Brooklyn Nets.

Porzingis and Anthony combined for 28 points in the first quarter, helping the Knicks to a 37-26 lead. Porzingis was six of eight from the floor for 16 points and Anthony was five of six for 12 points.

NOTES: New York is 15-2 when scoring at least 100 points. ... The Celtics had won four straight in one of the league's longest rivalries. ... The Knicks wore throwback uniforms from the 1950's. ... Knicks F Kristaps Porzingis is third in the league among rookies in scoring, second in rebounds, first in free throw percentage and first in blocks. ... Knicks G Sasha Vujacic has not played in 15 games this season, all due to coach's decision. ... The Celtics played in the front end of their ninth back-to-back games. They host Indiana on Wednesday. ... The Knicks are home in seven of their next 11 games.

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