Final: Celtics 101, Knicks 89. For the first time in 19 years, the Celtics have swept a postseason series. They hold off a late charge from the Knicks at Madison Square Garden, winning Game 4 and advancing in style to the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Kevin Garnett leads the way with a monster game for the Celtics, 26 points and 10 rebounds. Rajon Rondo adds 21 with 12 assists.
Carmelo Anthony cranks out 32 points, nine rebounds and three assists in a losing effort.
The Celtics are headed for round two, where they're likely to take on LeBron James and the Miami Heat. The Heat currently wield a 3-1 lead over the Sixers, and they've got a chance to close that series out at home on Wednesday night.
Fourth quarter, 2:03, Celtics 97-86: Another pretty jump shot from Garnett. The Big Ticket now has 24 on 9-of-15.
The Knicks are looking awfully desperate. They've rushed 3-point shots at every opportunity for the last minute or so. They're 7-for-26 from 3-point range in this game, including 1-for-6 in this quarter. That's not good enough.
The Celtics are a couple stops away from finishing this thing.
Fourth quarter, 4:10, Celtics 95-85: Kevin Garnett knocks down a jumper off an assist from Rajon Rondo, his 11th. The Celtics have quickly pushed the lead from six back to 10.
It's been an impressive run from the Knicks, but it appears to be coming up short. Time is running out.
Fourth quarter, 6:01, Celtics 91-83: Anthony Carter knocks down a 3, but Ray Allen answers with one of his own.
The Celtics' offense is alive again. But so is the Knicks'. Carter has looked other-worldly in this fourth quarter.
Fourth quarter, 7:33, Celtics 84-80: Delonte West collapses to double-team Carmelo Anthony, leaving Anthony Carter. Carter punishes him, drilling a jump shot from the top of the key.
Doc Rivers needs another timeout. He's watched the Celtics nearly blow an entire 22-point lead. Their advantage is now four.
They've yet to make a shot in the fourth quarter.
Fourth quarter, 10:26, Celtics 82-76: Carmelo Anthony nails a jumper from the elbow. He's been absolutely deadly.
It's a 9-1 run for the Knicks dating back to the end of the third quarter.
The Knicks are within six.
Doc Rivers is ready to have a heart attack.
End of third quarter, Celtics 82-72: The Celtics have a shot at ending the Knicks' postseason early, but the Knicks are putting up quite a fight.
The Knicks close the quarter on a 31-18 run. They're only down 10. The Celtics are still in the driver's seat, but with Carmelo Anthony in "refuse to lose" mode, absolutely anything is possible.
Carmelo has 27 points and seven rebounds for the Knicks. Kevin Garnett has 19 and nine for Boston.
The next 12 minutes will decide whether the Big Apple lives or dies in this postseason.
Third quarter, 2:44, Celtics 77-67: Glen Davis leaps for an offensive rebound and ends up fouling Amare Stoudemire. That's his third, and it puts the Knicks in the bonus.
Amare gets to the line and hits both shots. The Knicks have cut the lead from 22 to 10 in this third quarter.
They're alive. Very much so. The Celtics need to get back to smart, composed, unselfish offense. They got away from it a while ago.
Third quarter, 4:50, Celtics 74-60: The Celtics make a couple mistakes on offense, and the Knicks get a couple fast breaks. Carmelo Anthony finds himself with back-to-back dunks in transition.
That's a 6-0 run for the Knicks, with all six points from Melo. He's now got 27.
Doc Rivers calls a timeout. You can tell he's getting nervous.
With good reason.
Third quarter, 5:37, Celtics 74-54: Carmelo Anthony gets into the paint and draws another foul from Paul Pierce. Melo's got 21 points already, and he'll have an opportunity in a moment to reach 22 and 23.
On one hand, you can never count Melo out.
On the other hand, just think — how bad would the Knicks be without him? Would they be down by 30 without him? 35?
It's a scary thought.
Third quarter, 6:22, Celtics 72-52: The other embarrassingly bad matchup for the Knicks? Point guard, of course. Toney Douglas is 2-for-10, and Rondo just plowed into him for a bucket and an easy foul. Three-point play opportunity for the C's.
It takes a lot of hard work to keep a body in front of Rondo. The Knicks don't appear the least bit interested in doing that work.
Third quarter, 8:26, Celtics 68-48: Amare Stoudemire is getting embarrassed on both ends of the floor. Not only can he not shoot, but he can't defend Kevin Garnett either.
KG just got post position, waited to draw Stoudemire in, then lofted a smooth step-back over his arms. Amare's just not quick enough to contest that.
KG is 5-for-6 in this game. Amare is 2-for-12.
Third quarter, 10:34, Celtics 62-41: Paul Pierce comes up with five early points in the third quarter. It's a 7-3 run for the C's who open their lead from 17 to a game-high 21.
That makes only nine points for Pierce, along with nine for Ray Allen. In that respect, this is no Game 3. But the Knicks' struggles defensively have been across the board, not just on those two guys. The C's are cruising.
Halftime, Celtics 55-38: Carmelo Anthony is doing absolutely everything in his power to keep the Knicks alive in this postseason, but he can't do it alone. And frankly, he's getting no help.
Melo has 19 points and five rebounds. The Knicks' second-leading scorer is Amare Stoudemire with six — but he's 1-for-10. The supporting cast around Melo has blown far too many golden opportunities to put the ball in the hole.
Rajon Rondo has led the Celtics with 13 points and six assists. Glen Davis has finally had a breakout game off the bench for Boston — he's contributed 12 points and five rebounds to the cause.
The Celtics are 24 minutes away from pulling off their first series sweep in two decades.
The Knicks might want to start thinking about their summer vacation plans.
Second quarter, 2:15, Celtics 50-33: Glen Davis continues to outplay Amare Stoudemire. Big Baby outreaches Amare for a defensive rebound, he makes an outlet pass to trigger the break, and Rajon Rondo gets to the basket and draws a foul on the other end.
Rondo will have two shots in a moment. The Celtics can push their lead from 17 to 19.
The Knicks' lives are flashing before their lives.
Second quarter, 5:58, Celtics 42-28: Ray Allen and Delonte West each drill a jumper. The Celtics are fired up. That's a 9-1 run.
The Knicks' last field goal was at the 10:56 mark. Nearly five whole minutes ago. Yowch.
Second quarter, 7:12, Celtics 37-27: Things get a little heated here in the second quarter. Delonte West delivers a hard foul to Landry Fields and stands over him; Amare Stoudemire defends his boy by shoving West away. Double technicals are quickly called.
West didn't do much of anything wrong, but it's hard to blame Amare, either. Tempers are going to flare in an elimination game. It's the nature of the beast.
In any event, the Celtics still have a 10-point lead.
Second quarter, 7:41, Celtics 37-27: Glen Davis' defense has been even more impressive than his O. Big Baby has been guarding the much longer Amare Stoudemire, and he finally appears to be holding his own.
Amare's now 0-for-7. Part of that can he chalked up to the injury, but part of it is Baby's energy on the defensive end.
How long will he keep it up?
Second quarter, 10:19, Celtics 33-25: The Knicks continue to mess up their rotations defensively, and that continues to result in a wide-open Big Baby Davis. Baby gets into the paint and knocks down another jumper. He's now 4-for-5.
His point totals in this series are as follows: 2, 4, 4, and now 8 and counting. We were all waiting for his breakout game, and now it looks like it's come.
End of first quarter, Celtics 29-23: Rajon Rondo was dominant in Game 3 here at Madison Square Garden, and now he's picking up right where he left off. The Celtics' point guard has nine points and five assists to lead the way after one.
Rondo is doing a masterful job of picking his spots. When the defense slags off of him, he attacks with either a driving layup or an open jumper. When they put a body on him, he finds an open man. It's another one of the so-called "Varitek games" for the Celtics' signal-caller.
As expected, Carmelo Anthony is again carrying the Knicks. He's got an absurd 15 of their first 23 points.
First quarter, 2:35, Celtics 23-18: Nenad Krstic is in the game, replacing Jermaine O'Neal. He hasn't made much of an impact so far in this series, but he's looking to change that today. He's got two points, a rebound and a block.
If we see a more slowed-down, possession-by-possession flow to Game 4, then there's a chance for Krstic to shine. But if both teams remain turnover prone and it's a transition ballgame, then Doc will be more inclined to go small and use plenty of Jeff Green.
Krstic can be a factor for the Celtics in the right matchup. Whether the Knicks are that matchup remains to be seen.
First quarter, 5:32, Celtics 15-13: The Celtics have a small early lead, but the Knicks have to be encouraged. Amare Stoudemire looks like himself again.
Amare just dove on top of Glen Davis for a rebound, slapping the ball loose from Big Baby. No fear at all. He doesn't look the least bit tentative with the back pain.
That's a good sign for the Knicks. A really good sign. Chances are, we're not looking at another 20-point blowout.
First quarter, 7:45, 10-10: A couple of scary moments for the Celtics early, but nothing serious. Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo have each been tripped up by the ankles in the opening minutes. Both guys came up limping, if only briefly.
If nothing else, it reminds you of these guys' mortality. The Celtics have been the luckier team in this series, injury-wise, but that can change at any moment. Don't get cocky, C's fans.
First quarter, 10:19, Celtics 4-3: Carmelo Anthony puts the Knicks on the board by drilling a 3 from the top of the key.
Melo might need a lot of shots like that one today. The Knicks haven't found much offense anywhere else in this series. It's got to be an epic Melo game for New York to have a chance.
First quarter, 11:30, Celtics 2-0: A couple of calls go the Celtics' way in the opening minutes. First Amare Stoudemire is called for a charge against Jermaine O'Neal, and then Ronny Turiaf gets a block call on the other end.
Paul Pierce hits two free throws. The C's are catching the breaks already.
3:15 p.m.: No surprises on the injury front — Amare Stoudemire is playing, Chauncey Billups isn't, and Shaquille O'Neal definitely isn't.
The more interesting pregame news story was the little war of words between Doc Rivers and Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni, who attributed Rajon Rondo's success to having "three Hall of Famers out there." That D'Antoni sure knows how to crank out bulletin-board material.
Rondo already had plenty of motivation, but this will only give him more. The C's and Knicks are only a few minutes away from tipoff, so do stay tuned.
1:45 p.m.: Welcome to Madison Square Garden, where the Celtics have a chance to close things out on Sunday afternoon. But it won't be easy.
For proof of that, look no further than the other two East playoff teams that have taken 3-0 leads in this first round — the Bulls fell way behind the Pacers early Saturday and ultimately lost on a blown final possession, and the Heat are currently being blown out in the first half at Philly.
Will the Celtics suffer the same fate? They certainly have a history of trouble closing.
But maybe today's the day history changes.
8 a.m.: Closing out a playoff series on the road is difficult, right?
Just don't tell that to Ray Allen.
"It's not difficult for me by any means," the Celtics' shooting guard said Saturday. "I don't look at it as a closeout game. I just look at it as another game that we have to play and we have to win. Last night we didn't win anything. We don't win anything on Sunday. We just have to go out and do our jobs. That's how I look at it."
The Celtics are one win away from eliminating the Knicks and moving on to the second round of the playoffs. It's looking increasingly likely that once there, they'll take on the Miami Heat for a shot at the East finals. But they're not thinking big-picture just yet. For now, it's a matter of playing one game together as a team. That's it.
"We've got to come out and play," Glen Davis said. "We've got to make sure we do what we've got to do. That's the point, plain and simple."
Again, the Celtics will have luck on their side injury-wise. They'll be without Shaquille O'Neal, but the Knicks have it much worse. Chauncey Billups remains out with a strained left knee, Amare Stoudemire's back spasms keep getting worse, and the Knicks' depth has taken a serious hit.
The C's haven't swept a playoff series since 1992, but they're trying not to think about that. They just want a win.
The C's and Knicks tip off at 3:30 p.m. Sunday at Madison Square Garden.
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