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With his three All-Star teammates resting, Rajon Rondo had 23 points and 10 rebounds, leading the Boston Celtics to a 99-93 victory over the New York Knicks on Monday night in what may have been Isiah Thomas' final home game as Knicks coach.
Boston improved to 65-16 despite giving Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen the night off. Sam Cassell added 22 points for the Celtics, who learned during the game they will face the Atlanta Hawks in the first round of the playoffs.
Nate Robinson scored 26 points, and David Lee had 12 points and 16 rebounds for the Knicks, who fell to 23-58 and need a win in their season finale at Indiana to avoid tying the franchise record for losses, last matched two years ago during Larry Brown's lone season.
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, who was booed during pregame introductions and in the final minute, wouldn't say if he even wanted to be the coach next season, only that he's always done whatever the Knicks have asked of him. He added before the game he wouldn't be thinking that this could be the end.
"I haven't really let my mind go to that place," he said. "Whatever Donnie wants of me and whatever he wants me to do, I'll do."
Boston coach Doc 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.
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.
Knicks rookie Wilson Chandler, who had been playing well lately, sprained his left knee in the third quarter. X-rays were negative.
This program aired on April 15, 2008. The audio for this program is not available.
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