NEW YORK – Closing in on one goal — ending Boston’s division title reign — the New York Knicks added another.
While they were finishing off their second victory over the Celtics this week, injured forward Rasheed Wallace drew a large “50″ on the board in their locker room, challenging them to strive for a 50-win season.
They’re on pace to get that, too, in what’s shaping up as their best season in two decades.
Carmelo Anthony had 24 points and 10 rebounds, and the Knicks extended their winning streak to eight games and moved closer to ending Boston’s hold on the Atlantic Division title with a 108-89 victory Sunday night.
Coach Mike Woodson has talked about winning the division title since taking over last March, and Wallace has given the Knicks (46-26) another target.
“It’s very doable for us and we have something to look forward to,” Anthony said. “Fifty wins is always a great thing in this league to accomplish, winning a division is always a great thing to accomplish, a great accomplishment in this league. So (those) two things are definitely doable, we’ve just got to keep it moving, keep it going.”
The Knicks won the season series for the first time since 2003-04, when they also went 3-1 against Boston. New York climbed back into a tie with Indiana in the race for the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, which would currently mean a playoff meeting with the Celtics.
Chris Copeland added 22 points and Raymond Felton had 18 for the Knicks, who last won eight in a row from Nov. 28-Dec. 12, 2010. They will try to extend the streak Tuesday at NBA-leading Miami.
J.R. Smith, who had 30 points off the bench in his previous three games, finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds.
Jeff Green scored 27 points, and Paul Pierce had 24 points and 15 rebounds as the Celtics had a two-game winning streak snapped.
“We just didn’t close out to their shooters,” Pierce said. “We pretty much gave them everything they wanted. We opened up their shooters, we opened up their drives (and) we fouled them too much. I don’t even know how to explain it. They just beat us to the punch.”
New York opened a 41/2-game lead over Brooklyn atop the Atlantic and moved the Celtics to 8½ games back and the brink of elimination in the division race. Boston has won all five division titles since acquiring Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in the summer of 2007.
The Knicks, who won by 15 in Boston on Tuesday, haven’t won a division title since the 1993-94 season, but a 12-6 March — their most wins in that month since going 14-0 in that last division championship season — has them on track.