Pierce breaks Knicks' hearts


NEW YORK, December 16- Paul Pierce drained a tiebreaking shot with four-tenths of a second remaining and Amare Stoudemire's attempt to answer was too late as Boston edged New York in an NBA thriller on Wednesday.

The Celtics’ 118-116 victory was their 11th straight win. The Knicks, meanwhile, saw their eight-game winning streak snapped when a video replay of Stoudemire’s three-point shot showed the ball was still in his hands as time expired.

Pierce scored 32 points for Boston, who trailed much of the fourth quarter but eventually managed to take their record to an Eastern Conference-leading 20-4.

Stoudemire had 39 points, extending his Knicks-record streak to nine straight 30-point games.

However, the Knicks were denied a victory over a leading team – something they wanted to confirm their recent run of success is no fluke.

They’ll get a shot at another NBA heavyweight on Friday, when they host LeBron James and the Miami Heat.

The Knicks lost for just the second time in their last 15 games, but doubters have noted that most of those victories came against the league’s lesser lights.

Even though the Knicks fell short, Pierce said it was clear their resurgence was for real.

"The Knicks have arrived," Pierce said in a postgame television interview. "They’re going to be a force to reckon with in the division."

Ray Allen scored 26 points and Kevin Garnett had 20 points and 13 rebounds for the Celtics.

Raymond Felton had 26 points and 14 assists for New York. Danilo Gallinari scored 20 points and Wilson Chandler had 18 points with 12 rebounds for the Knicks, but the Celtics wouldn’t be denied.

A dunk by Stoudemire broke a 94-94 tie with eight minutes remaining and New York held onto the lead until Garnett made two free throws with 1:29 to play.

Allen’s three-pointer gave Boston a 116-113 lead with 1:02 remaining.

Gallinari responded with a three-point play and the Knicks then got the ball again after the Celtics threw it away only to see Stoudemire’s shot fail to fall.

Pierce then ran the clock down and created enough room to make his shot over Stoudemire. After a timeout, the Knicks inbounded the ball to Stoudemire, who appeared to drain a three-pointer to spark a roar from the crowd at Madison Square Garden.

The referees, however, had ruled it came too late, and with the Celtics standing behind them as they watched it again on video, the Knicks players saw the ruling was correct.