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Balanced effort leads Celtics in rout of Knicks

NEW YORK (AP) -- One of the NBA's oldest rivalries is not much of
a competition anymore.

Paul Pierce and Wally Szczerbiak each scored 22 points, Delonte
West added 21, and the Boston Celtics beat the New York Knicks
123-98 on Wednesday night.

The Celtics snapped a two-game losing streak and handed the
Knicks their sixth straight loss. Boston has won 15 of the last 19
meetings, including all three this season.

"We're playing against a struggling team. They have a lack of
confidence," Pierce said. "I'm not going to take anything away
from our team, but I felt like this is a game we're supposed to
win."

The Celtics, who shot 57 percent from the field, now own a
256-166 advantage in a series that dates back to the NBA's first
season in 1946-47.

It was also the largest margin of victory for the Celtics this
season and their second-highest point total. They lost 125-124 in
triple-overtime to Philadelphia on Jan. 13.

"I think we came and just handled our business," Pierce said.
"They're a poor defensive team. The better teams are not going to
allow you to do this."

The Celtics led 40-28 after the first quarter and never
relinquished their double-digit lead. Boston pulled within three
games of Philadelphia for the eighth and final playoff spot in the
Eastern Conference.

"It's the same old same old. We can't guard anyone," Knicks
coach Larry Brown said. "They got 33 points on the break. It
looked like that could have had 100."

Ryan Gomes added 15 points and 13 rebounds for the Celtics, who
led by as many as 38 points in the fourth quarter. Raef LaFrentz
and Tony Allen each had 14 points.

Ahead 62-51, the Celtics scored the last nine points of the
first half and extended their lead to 78-55 on LaFrentz' 3-pointer
with 9:42 left in the third quarter.

When the Knicks managed to cut their deficit to 16 points with
6:44 left, Celtics coach Doc Rivers called a timeout.

"Play the same way you played when you got the lead," he told
his players in the huddle. "No turnovers. Take care of the ball."

Szczerbiak immediately followed with a 3-pointer, Pierce made a
foul shot, and West hit a jumper. The Celtics never led by fewer
than 20 again.

"We haven't had many road wins like this this season. We'll
take it," Szczerbiak said. "It's a big win for us. Keeps us in
the playoff hunt."

The rout continued in the fourth quarter, even though West was
the only Boston starter to play in the last 12 minutes.

Qyntel Woods and Eddy Curry each scored 20 points for the
Knicks, who led only once, on Steve Francis' game-opening jumper.
Stephon Marbury added 19.

"I don't see how you give up 123 points, 33 on the break and
feel like you're satisfied," Brown said. "Maybe we're just not
good enough. After 70 games, it's mind boggling."<
^Notes: @ The 40 points Boston scored in the first quarter were the
most by a Knicks opponent in any quarter this season. The Celtics'
71 points at halftime tied the most allowed by the Knicks this
season. New York allowed Atlanta 71 points on Dec. 16. . Many
former Knicks were honored during their "Hall of Famers and
Legends" halftime ceremony, including a member of New York's
original 1946-47 team, Ralph Kaplowitz.