Knicks fall to Celtics late in heartbreaker

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If these two old rivals meet in the one-game, play-in event, it’s going to be classic.

In a defensive slugfest that ended in a Knicks heartbreaker, the Celtics rallied from a seven-point fourth-quarter deficit and eked out a 101-99 victory at TD Garden on Wednesday. Marcus Smart hit the game-clinching 3-pointer with 35 seconds left to break the tie.

Alec Burks missed a 3-pointer with 22 seconds left and then got blocked on a drive in the lane with 10 seconds left to clinch the loss.

The Knicks are 2-8 in games decided by three points or fewer this season.

If the season ended now, the Celtics and Knicks would meet in the No. 7-vs.-8 play-in tournament game in the NBA’s new format to qualify for the actual playoffs. The Celtics are now in seventh place at 26-26. The Knicks fell to eighth place at 25-27, having lost five of their last six games.

This was a doozy, but the Knicks lost a seven-point lead in the final 8:12 with Smart keying the comeback, catching an airball underneath and laying it home for big bucket with two minutes left.

The loss spoiled a gem of a game for RJ Barrett, who made 6 of 6 3-pointers to finish with 29 points. However, Barrett also committed a costly turnover, losing his dribble in the left corner, that led to a Jaylen Brown fastbreak layup to put the Celtics in the lead at 93-90 with 1:01 left.

Barrett tied the score with his fifth 3-pointer, but it wasn’t enough. Julius Randle scored 22 points with nine rebounds, six assists and three steals.

Randle was ferocious in the third quarter, barreling in transition for buckets and powering the Knicks to a 73-70 lead entering the final period.

Jayson Tatum scored 25 points and Brown added 32. Tatum didn’t play when the Knicks won in Boston by 30 points in January.

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