NEW YORK – Paul Pierce made a tiebreaking jumper with 0.4 seconds left, Amare Stoudemire's 3-pointer at the buzzer was ruled too late, and the Boston Celtics pulled out a thrilling 118-116 victory over the New York Knicks on Wednesday night for their 11th straight win.
The Knicks had their eight-game winning streak snapped when a video replay of Stoudemire's shot showed the ball was clearly still in his hands as time expired.
Pierce scored 32 points for the Celtics, who trailed most of the fourth quarter before running their record to 20-4, best in the Eastern Conference.
Stoudemire had 39 points, extending his franchise-record streak to nine straight 30-point games. But the Knicks were denied the victory over a top team they desperately craved to punctuate their return to relevance.
They get another chance Friday, when LeBron James and the Miami Heat come to Madison Square Garden.
"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, enjoying their fifth winning streak of 10 games or more since their Big Three came together before the 2007-08 season.
Raymond Felton had 26 points and 14 assists, Danilo Gallinari scored 20 points and Wilson Chandler had 18 points and 12 rebounds for the Knicks, who lost for just the second time in their last 15 games.
Most of those victories came during a soft part of the schedule, leaving the Knicks needing a victory over an established NBA power to prove doubters they were back, despite their 16-10 record.
The Celtics just wouldn't let it happen.
Stoudemire's dunk snapped a 94-all tie with 8:05 left, and the Knicks stayed ahead until Garnett made two free throws with 1:29 remaining. Felton was late getting back after landing hard on a missed drive and the Celtics swung the ball around to Allen, whose 3-pointer gave Boston a 116-113 lead with 1:02 to play.
Gallinari answered with a three-point play and the Knicks got the ball back after the Celtics threw it away trying to find Allen, but Stoudemire's shot from the lane rolled out.
Pierce ran the clock down and created enough space to make his shot over Stoudemire, who had picked him up on a switch. After a timeout, the Knicks inbounded the ball to Stoudemire behind the arc, and the Madison Square Garden crowd that was standing for most of the final minutes roared when his shot went through.
But the referees had ruled it came too late, and with the Celtics standing behind them as they watched it again on video, they saw their judgment was correct.
Seeking their first nine-game winning streak since winning 15 in a row from March 1-April 2, 1994, the Knicks led most of the way and surpassed their NBA-best average of 108.5 points per game. But the Celtics, showing their huge advantage in late-game experience, scored 67 points in the second half.
With the Knicks off to their best start since the mid-1990s, both teams downplayed the notion of a rivalry between them. But they agreed it was a much bigger game for the Knicks, who simply haven't been a part of big games for most of the decade.
"It's fun to look forward to a game. That's been a while," said Mike D'Antoni, who has largely been in coaching purgatory since leaving Phoenix as the Knicks slashed payroll at the expense of his won-loss record.
This one had a big-game feel, especially when Spike Lee danced out onto the floor at halftime and slapped five with fellow front-row fans after Felton banked in a running 3-pointer just in front of them to give the Knicks a 58-51 lead.
Stoudemire had to work hard to extend his streak in Sunday's 129-125 victory over Denver, when he scored 24 in the second half. This one came easily, as he was more than halfway there by the time the first quarter was over, and surpassed 30 points in the final minute of the third.
With Shaquille O'Neal and Jermaine O'Neal both on the bench with injuries, the Celtics used Turkish rookie Semih Erden and then Glen "Big Baby" Davis on Stoudemire, and neither could contain him. Stoudemire was 7 of 10 for 17 points in the first quarter, Chandler scored 10, and the Knicks led 32-24.
Gallinari was 0 for 10 from the field in his first six quarters against Boston this season, then broke out with a huge third quarter. He scored 11 in the period, highlighted by a driving reverse dunk, as the Knicks led by as much as 12 before settling for a 90-83 advantage after Felton made all three free throws when Pierce inexplicably fouled him with 0.1 seconds left.
Notes: Doc Rivers got his 300th victory as Celtics coach, improving to 300-216 in his six seasons with Boston. He's fourth on their wins list and needs eight to tie K.C. Jones for third. ... Stoudemire's streak is the longest in one season since Kobe Bryant had nine 30-point games in a row at the end of the 2005-06 season. ... Donald Trump did MSG Network's Q & A segment at halftime and didn't rule out a run for president in 2012 or competing on Dancing With The Starts. ... Rivers said he had dinner Tuesday night with fellow former Knicks guard John Starks.