Knicks fall in the fourth
L
93
99
New York vs Boston
93 - 99
Record: 23-58
Watching the Knicks from the bench (AP Photo/Ed Betz)
Watching the Knicks from the bench (AP Photo/Ed Betz)
NEW YORK (AP) - If these are Isiah Thomas' last days on the Knicks' bench, he needs one more win to avoid joining the losingest coaches in team history.

Even with their three All-Stars resting, the Boston Celtics beat New York 99-93 on Monday night in what may have been Thomas' final home game as Knicks coach.

The Knicks fell to 23-58 and need to win their season finale at Indiana to avoid tying the franchise record for losses, last matched two years ago during Larry Brown's lone season. Sometime after that game, Thomas will be told - if he hasn't already been - if he will return next season.

"There are certain times when you live in uncertainty and you're not comfortable with it, but you have to learn to settle and be patient and see what plays out," Thomas said. "And we all want certainty in our life. However, in the uncertain times you have to sit with it and in sports there are a lot of uncertain times."

Donnie Walsh, who replaced Thomas as team president earlier this month, has said Thomas will finish the season as coach before he decides on next season. Walsh said he has no timetable, other than wanting the situation settled before the draft, but realizes the speculation involved means he probably needs to announce his decision much sooner.

Thomas was booed during pregame introductions and fans chanted for him to be fired in the final minute. But while firing Thomas may be the popular decision with fans, Jamal Crawford cautioned that it may not be the right one.

"You can't always do what's popular and what isn't popular," he said. "You just have to be patient. Last year keeping Doc Rivers wasn't a popular decision, either."

Rivers gave Kevin Garnett , Paul Pierce and Ray Allen the night off, but Rajon Rondo had 23 points and 10 rebounds for the Celtics, who learned during the game they will face the Atlanta Hawks in the first round of the playoffs.

Sam Cassell added 22 points for the Celtics, who got a halftime pep talk from another champion who wears green: Masters winner Trevor Immelman, who watched the game the day after collecting the green jacket.

"He gave us a halftime speech and it obviously worked," Rivers said. "It was great. Half the guys didn't know him, but most of them did. But it was really cool. They gave him a nice standing ovation, shook his hand. We wanted everyone to touch what a champion felt like."

Rivers said before the game he wanted his Big Three to play just one of the final two games and instead opted for the home finale Wednesday against New Jersey.

Allen and Pierce watched the early action from the bench before joining Garnett, who stayed in the locker room throughout. They missed an impressive performance from their point guards.

Rondo made the first basket of the fourth quarter to wipe out the Knicks' last lead, and later in the period converted a difficult three-point play, knocking in a jumper while being hit in the face by Renaldo Balkman to make it 84-79.

"I'm a pretty confident guy," Rondo said. "I'm not cocky, but I have confidence in my game and I want the ball at the end of the game, even though the Big Three will have the ball. But sometimes I have it in the palm of my hands, so I have to be ready to take the shot."

Cassell buried two 3-pointers in the final 3:41, the last extending Boston's lead to 95-88 with 56 seconds to play. The Celtics beat the Knicks for the sixth straight time, sweeping the series for the first time since the 2002-03 season.

Nate Robinson scored 26 points and David Lee had 12 points and 16 rebounds for the Knicks. Rookie Wilson Chandler , who had been playing well lately, sprained his left knee in the third quarter. X-rays were negative.

Notes: Garnett won his third Eastern Conference player of the week award Monday, the most by a Celtics player in one season since Larry Bird was honored four times in 1985-86. ... The Knicks gave away free food and nonalcoholic beverages to thank fans for helping them record 21 sellouts.

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