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Sprewell, Knicks Sink Celtics

In the shadow of Patrick Ewing's return from injury, Latrell Sprewell led the New York Knicks to victory.

Sprewell scored 21 of his game-high 27 points in the first half as New York defeated Boston 96-78 Saturday, sending the Celtics to their eighth straight road loss.

"I thought his aggression was good," Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy said of Sprewell. "He was on the offensive board in the first half, with Marcus (Camby), so we got more shots. And I think our point guards are doing a good job of advancing the ball to him on the break. He's obviously a good finisher."

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  • Ewing scored 11 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in 27 minutes as he returned to the Knicks' lineup after missing six games because of left Achilles' tendinitis.

    "I felt fine," said Ewing, who wore an apparatus on his injured leg. "I was a little rusty in the first half, but I got in the flow a little better in the second half."

    Still getting accustomed to his new role as the Knicks' sixth man, Sprewell is trying to play his game the way he knows best.

    "I'm going to do the things I've always done," Sprewell said. "Drive to the basket, get to the free-throw line. Just play with a lot of heart and energy."

    The Knicks, who have won six of their last 10 games, snapped a three-game losing streak to the Celtics. The losses came following a 21-game winning streak New York had over Boston.

    "It felt good (to beat them)," Ewing said. "They kicked us royally the last time we played. We came out and gave it back to them."

    The Celtics have lost seven of their last eight games and nine of 11.

    Ron Mercer scored 19 points and Antoine Walker and Vitaly Potapenko added 14 each for the Celtics, who dropped to 3-12 on the road this season. The Celtics have now lost 12 straight to the Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

    Sprewell took over in the second quarter, scoring 18 of the Knicks' 30 points. With New York trailing by five, a Sprewell dunk started a 20-9 run that gave the Knicks a 47-41 lead that they did not relinquish.

    "They hav a great offensive weapon in Latrell Sprewell," Celtics coach Rick Pitino said. "It looks like he's rounding back into form and it's a very unstoppable weapon."

    The Knicks played two types of games, one that featured Sprewell and another led by Ewing. Ewing played the entire first quarter but only three minutes in the second.

    Sprewell was kept on the bench until the 4:12 mark of the third quarter as Ewing returned to the lineup after halftime.

    "That's the most difficult part," Sprewell said. "You warm up before the game and at halftime and then you have to sit."

    In the first quarter, Mercer was 6-for-8 to help the Celtics to a 30-25 lead.

    "We struggled a little in the second half and they were going to the free throw line a lot," Mercer said. "In the second quarter, we were taking and missing too many jump shots and we didn't get the job done. They picked up their defense."

    Charlie Ward scored 18 points for New York, Larry Johnson had 13 and Allan Houston 11. Camby grabbed a season-high 15 rebounds.

    The Celtics were plagued by turnovers, committing 17 that led to 25 Knicks points. Notes: Prior to the game, the Celtics placed F Popeye Jones on the injured list with a sore left knee and activated G Marlon Garnett. ... For the second time in a week, the Knicks are playing on three consecutive days. They play at Toronto Sunday and return home to face the Atlanta Hawks Monday. New York swept its last stretch of three games in three days. ... The Celtics, who play the Bulls at home Sunday, are 2-6 in first games of back-to-back sets. ... The Celtics' last win at New York was Jan. 10, 1993.

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