Without meltdowns or spectacular play, the Knicks handle the Celtics

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Amar'e Stoudemire dunks against the Celtics. (NBA.com)
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The Knicks appear to be over the Celtics, finally.

Thursday night in Boston, they managed just 12 assists on 83 field goal attempts, the consequences of playing without a real starting point guard. Offense is coming in fits and starts as a result, with Tyson Chandler's game greatly limited by a lack of playmaker, Jason Kidd forced out of his early-season role of shooter, and Carmelo Anthony forced to shoot more than he had been, become a facilitator, and play 40-plus minutes regularly.

All of that makes the Knicks' 89-86 victory that much more impressive.

It doesn't mean the Knicks are going to always beat the Celtics; in fact, the Celtics beat the Knicks just two weeks ago in Madison Square Garden. But the Celtics did so by the narrowest of margins, and it took the kind of struggles from Carmelo Anthony that the Knicks hadn't otherwise seen from him since he came over in a trade back in February, 2011. They did it with Amar'e Stoudemire just back from his knee injury, and a pale imitation of his former self. They did it against a team that was without Iman Shumpert. And they did it without Raymond Felton.

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Thursday night was hardly a vintage performance from the Knicks. Anthony's 28 points came on 11-for-28 shooting, better than his last Celtics matchup, but hardly efficient. And J.R. Smith had arguably his worst game of the season, shooting 3-for-16.

But Stoudemire continued to steadily improve his performance, with 15 points, nine rebounds and two blocked shots in 20 minutes. Shumpert played 27 minutes, once again maxing out the playing time doctors allowed, since he does so much and the Knicks need him so badly.

Chandler took two shots all night, Steve Novak one. And still, the Knicks led through most of the second half, and secured a victory in Boston for the first time since 2006. And a player who will get people like Chandler and Novak looks, Felton, returns Saturday night against the Philadelphia 76ers. So the Knicks should get considerably stronger from here.

What is really going on here, and likely led to the Celtics doing everything to throw Anthony off his game through trash-talking, is that Anthony is the best player on the floor when the Celtics and Knicks meet. He made that clear last April in Madison Square Garden, putting up 35 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists in another Knicks' victory over the Celtics.

And as long as Anthony doesn't self-destruct, that's how Knicks-Celtics ought to go for a while. It's quite a change for a rivalry utterly dominated by the Celtics for a decade. But the Knicks now have bigger rivals in the Eastern Conference to worry about than the Boston Celtics.

Elsewhere in New York sports:

METS

The Mets need an outfield, Michael Bourn is available, and the Mets would love to sign him, really they would, but they have this draft pick they don't want to give up. No worries, though: another few converted infielders will do the trick.

RED BULLS

Mike Petke is the new coach, as the Red Bulls embrace their roots.

JETS

The Jets might trade Darelle Revis, because N.F.L. teams are known to give up Herschel Walker-like packages for cornerbacks who just missed a season, or something.