It wasn’t the best performance we’ve seen this season from Carmelo Anthony, but it was solid enough to lead the perfect mix of three point shooting and aggressive, drive-to-the-basket style as the New York Knicks hone in on their first division title in nearly 20 years.

Who else is better to beat on their way to that title than the Boston Celtics? It’s been quite a long time since the Knicks took a season series from their division rivals, but as the Celtics, playing with their very shorthanded lineup, knowing there isn’t much risk to the 7th spot they almost have locked for the postseason, are slowly declining from a few flair and success filled years, the Knicks seem to be on the rise, although it’s not to the top of the East, not yet.

It wasn’t too hard for the Knicks, winning 108-89 to win their third consecutive game against Boston, the second in a row with a double digit margin. Carmelo Anthony scored 24 points on 9-19 from the field (43.5% from the field this season), while the Knicks took out their doomsday weapon, the one they can’t lose with. Paul Pierce and Jeff Green combined for 51 points, but the Celtics’ best players took to the bench pretty early, and hardly anyone else gave something to the game in a very one-sided affair.

The Knicks were 14-27 from beyond the arc (51.9%) from the field, and won without really needing to get in the paint (only 22 points) or score on the fast break, getting nothing from that kind of attack. The Celtics simply defended badly from the get go, not really coping with the stretch offense the Knicks stuck to, making the right choice of taking a shot or driving to the basket almost every time, finishing with only 11 turnovers.

On defense, they kept the Celtics away from the smart basketball through Paul Pierce they love to run, keeping them at only 12 assists, shooting again and again from long range, finding it very hard and tiresome to move the ball around the right way, settling for tough jumper after tough one. Things should look different, and hopefully better, with some of the absentees back on the floor and a little more will and verve radiating from the players.

For now? The Knicks should be happy to be second, hoping to stay there and face a team in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs that they’ve clearly got the number of, being better in pretty much every aspect you can think of in a basketball game. Yes, with Carmelo Anthony and hopefully J.R. Smith continuing to play like a disciplined, tentative grown man, the Knicks can finally win a playoff series.

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