BOSTON - There's something about playing on St. Patrick's Day that brings out the best in the Boston Celtics.
The Celtics improved to 12-1 all-time at the Garden on St. Patrick's Day by thumping the New York Knicks, 109-97.
The Celtics led by as much as 27 in the second half, and pulled all of their starters by the end of the third quarter, which ended with Boston leading, 92-71. Boston's second unit did enough to hold on for the win.
Boston (43-24) pulled even with Atlanta (43-24), which lost to Toronto, 106-105, Wednesday night, for the third-best record in the East with the victory. It was the second straight game where Boston's starters did not have to play in the fourth quarter with the game in-hand.
Boston captain Paul Pierce had his second straight efficient game. Pierce led Boston with 29 points on 11-of-17 shooting, and 6 rebounds in 23 minutes of action.
Kevin Garnett had one of his best games of the season. He registered 22 points on 9-of-11 shooting, and Marquis Daniels was Boston's top player off the bench, finishing with 10 points and 3 rebounds.
Boston's offense was spread out as 10 different Celtic players scored. David Lee (29 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists) and Al Harrington (16 points) did their best to try to keep New York in the game.
The Celtics put the Knicks away early. Boston made it a point to go inside to Garnett and Kendrick Perkins (9 points, 12 rebounds) early and often and they responded by combining to score 13 of Boston's first 17 points as the Celtics quickly jumped out to a 17-7 lead.
Defensively, Boston's swarming man-to-man, help-oriented defense frustrated the Knicks early. New York missed its first seven shots of the game, and 10 of its first 12. Ray Allen (9 points) eventually gave the Celtics a 20-8 lead when he knocked down a 3-pointer from the left wing with 5:32 remaining in the quarter. At the time, the Celtics were shooting 80 percent from the field (8-for-10).
A Nate Robinson 3-pointer, followed by a Michael Finley layup gave Boston a 32-19 after one quarter of action.
The Celtics continued to pour it on in the second quarter. The Celtics outscored the Knicks, 36-30, in the second quarter to go up 68-49 at halftime. The Celtics knocked down 63 percent of their shots in the first half and never let up.