BOSTON (AP) The Celtics wanted to make a statement during their five-game homestand.
After their latest come-from-behind effort against the New York Knicks, the message is clear: Boston is emerging as a contender in the Eastern Conference.
Isaiah Thomas had 32 points and eight assists, Avery Bradley hit a go-ahead layup with 17.7 seconds left and the Celtics extended their home winning streak to 13 games with a 105-104 win over the Knicks on Friday night.
''The sky's the limit,'' said Boston's Evan Turner, who had 21 points and eight rebounds. ''At the end of the day, we always give ourselves the opportunity to play the right game and win. I think when it comes down to a four-game series and all of us are healthy and everything, I think we'll give a lot of teams a lot of problems.''
Jae Crowder had 20 points and eight rebounds. The Celtics went 5-0 during their longest stretch of home games this season despite facing double-digit deficits in four straight games.
Boston trailed by eight points in the fourth quarter but used a series of mini-runs to eventually take the lead for good on the driving layup by Bradley.
Carmelo Anthony had a chance to win the game in the closing seconds but badly missed a 3-pointer off the backboard as time expired.
Anthony had 30 points and seven rebounds. Arron Afflalo added 17 points and Kristaps Porzingis finished with 15 points for the Knicks, who lost their third straight.
''I feel bad for the guys. They did so many good things out there. They deserved to win that ballgame,'' Knicks coach Kurt Rambis said. ''Three seconds left and composure - that's on me. That's my fault. I need to have them better prepared for a situation like that.''
Crowder said a 13-2 run in the third quarter was the key in helping Boston come back after trailing for most of the first half.
''When it counted most, we really dug deep,'' he said.
With a trip to Cleveland next, the Celtics now have an opportunity to test themselves against the East's top team.
Turner said being challenged on their home court has prepared them.
''When it comes down to it, sometimes you gotta weather the storm versus adversity,'' Turner said. ''I think we can go as far as we possibly can.''
Knicks: New York was outscored 30-4 in fast-break points. ... The Knicks had 10 turnovers, leading to 15 Boston points.
Celtics: Boston outscored the Knicks 60-32 in the paint. ... Friday was Sullinger's 24th birthday.
Even after another humbling loss, the Knicks said there were some takeaways that could help them break out of their current rut. Afflalo said it begins with continuing to make better decisions on offense. ''We have to build better habits,'' he said. ''It's our shot selection and turnovers, uncharacteristic turnovers - whether it be from myself or anyone else. ... The more we minimize those things the better we will be.''
Anthony said closing out games better also must remain a priority.
''We were up seven or eight with 3 minutes to play. I thought we did a great job from that standpoint,'' Anthony said. ''We just didn't finish it off.''
TALKING ABOUT PRACTICE
The Celtics have had more days in between games recently, but coach Brad Stevens hasn't and won't be cramming them full of practices. For a coach that opts for brisk game-day afternoon walkthroughs instead of prolonged morning shootaround sessions, less is more.
''I was never a huge practice guy late in the year,'' Stevens said. ''I've never practiced more than an hour, or an hour and 15 (minutes) once we got into late January, February, March. It's about being as good as you can be with the time you have.''
New York hosts Detroit on Saturday night.
Boston plays at Cleveland Saturday night.
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