Carmelo Anthony scored 26 points on an efficient 12-for-25 shooting and Raymond Felton tore apart Avery Bradley and the Celtics defense to the tune of 15 points and 10 assists as the Knicks to a commanding 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. The Knicks shot 50 percent overall and 41 percent from deep in beating the Celtics both inside and out.
Jeff Green scored 21 points and had nine rebounds for the Celtics, who now must win Sunday to keep their season alive. Kevin Garnett had 12 points and 17 rebounds, but at no point did it feel like he was one of the best players on the floor.
Fourth quarter, 5:43, Knicks 82-66: Smith’s ejection got the crowd into it, but Anthony quickly silenced the “DE-FENSE” chants with an easy-looking midrange jumper. The Celtics are not coming back, folks, no matter what you may want to believe. See you Sunday, and if things keep going like this, that will be all for the Celtics this year.
Fourth quarter, 7:06, Knicks 78-59: This probably will end up being a rousing win for the Knicks, but Smith will not be around to enjoy it. Isolated against Terry on the right baseline, Smith swung his elbows directly into Terry’s jaw for a flagrant-two, which comes with an automatic ejection.
Fourth quarter, 10:13, Knicks 73-54: Wherever Green’s head is at, it is not here. He started out by just holding the ball as the Knicks descended with a double-team, forcing him to throw the ball into the backcourt. Then he failed to stay close to Steve Novak setting up in the corner in transition, leaving one of the league’s best shooters open for a back-breaking three.
The worst part of it is, there is at least one more game left in this series.
End of third quarter, Knicks 68-52: And of course, Crawford ends the quarter by missing a 27-footer.
With Garnett taking a loooong extended rest, the Celtics stayed within 16 points, so that’s something. They actually scored more than 20 points in a quarter for the first time in this game, checking in with a cool 21. Anthony has 22 points all by himself.
Pierce finally started to get something going (he was 4-for-5 in the quarter) and Green got aggressive, and these fans are desperately clinging to the hope there is a big comeback awaiting their guys. If there is, it would take a massive turnaround in energy, intensity and focus. Currently, there is none.
Third quarter, 4:57, Knicks 56-40: The shots are not falling, and now the Celtics are starting to let it affect their defense as well. Too many heads are sagging after each missed shot, as Anthony continues to drain jumpers and Felton keeps getting to the cup whenever and however he pleases. Pierce is 3-for-4 in the quarter, but all that has accomplished is keeping the Celtics from dropping behind even farther.
The boos are getting louder now, especially when Terry misses. He is now 1-for-3 from deep, and the crowd is letting him hear about it.
Halftime, Knicks 47-31: The honeymoon is over in Boston. The kumbaya vibes did not take long to evaporate, and the fans booed the Celtics as they left the court after scoring 31 points in the first half.
Yup, 31 points.
The Celtics have had some tough halves in this series, but so far they have gone with strong starts and bad finishes. Maybe they plan on flipping the script. Either way, they need to change something or else they will be in for an early summer, starting Sunday evening.
Anthony has 12 points, leading the way for what has been an all-around dominant performance for the Knicks. Felton has seven points and five assists, and he is even playing defense, which is different. Green has nine points to lead the Celtics while Garnett is just a basket away from a double-double, with eight points and 10 rebounds, but as long as Pierce keeps raining bricks and turnovers — he is 2-for-10 overall and 0-for-3 from deep so far — the Celtics will need a herculean performance from someone else.
Second quarter, 2:12, Knicks 42-29: Pierce just has not looked like himself, which makes roughly six out of the 10 quarters in the series when he has really struggled.
Pierce is 2-for-9 from the field with three turnovers. He is even having trouble handling the ball, leading to some awkward-looking possessions — even more awkward than his usual possessions.
Meanwhile, Melo is heating up. He delivered a turnaround jumper on the baseline over Terry, extending New York’s lead to 13 points, its largest of the night.
Second quarter, 5:28, Knicks 36-25: The Celtics definitely looked like they were making things interesting for a while. Then they subbed Bradley and Terry in for Crawford and Lee and things went sour.
The Knicks are on a 10-2 run and the Celtics are back to looking lazy on defense. They keep getting drawn in by the Knicks’ dribble penetration, but instead of scrambling out, closing out and contesting the threes, they are jumping and flying by while the Knicks just pump fake and easily dribble past.
Second quarter, 8:45, Knicks 26-23: The video montages that are playing during each stoppage may be inspiring the Celtics. They have opened the second quarter strong, pushing the pace and pressuring the Knicks on defense. They got some luck — like Jordan Crawford’s 26-footer as the shot clock expired — but it is luck of their own making.
End of first quarter, Knicks 23-18: Something has gotten into Bass on defense. Whatever it is, the Celtics will take it. He is absolutely blanketing Anthony, helping hold the league’s scoring champ to 2-for-7 shooting in the opening quarter.
Across the way, Pierce is having an even rougher time. Pierce is just 1-for-6 from the field and is basically taking plays off defensively. He has yet to box out a soul, enabling Shumpert to get two offensive rebounds early.
The Bass-Green-Lee combo will need to do big things for the Celtics if Bradley and Pierce keep underperforming. Green stepped up in rhythm and swished a three, which bodes well for the Celtics given what Bass and Lee have already done.
First quarter, 1:27, Knicks 23-16: At the 4:43 mark, Bass made his first appearance, replacing Garnett off the bench. He immediately knocked the ball away from Felton, who was driving to the hole, showing just what an impact Bass has had defensively in this series.
About a minute later, at the 3:50 mark, Courtney Lee checked in. Lee’s playing time has been decreased dramatically in the playoffs, but he hit a pull-up jumper fresh of the bench to start a little run for the Celtics to pull within seven points.
First quarter, 4:49, Knicks 15-9: What has happened to Bradley? The so-called “best perimeter defender in the NBA” has looked flat-footed against Felton, a decent pick-and-roll point guard but not someone who should leave any defender, much less a very good one, in his dust so consistently.
Bradley has looked bad at both ends in this series, and moving Terry into the starting lineup with him has not done much to help. The Knicks, who feed off their offense, already have three 3-pointers on drive-and-kicks. That has boosted them on defense, where they have held the Celtics to four buckets in 14 attempts.
8:12 p.m.: Nope, no error here. Terry really is starting, and he is starting in place of Bass.
That is sort of an odd move given how well Bass has played in this series. He has been the Celtics’ most consistent player, yet he will start Game 3 on the bench. Let’s see if Rivers’ roll of the dice pays off.
7:46 p.m.: Here is an interesting development. Jason Terry is listed as a starter on the scoreboard, but Rivers told us less than an hour ago that there were no changes to the starting lineup.
We will see if Rivers was lying to us or if there was some kind of communication error.
7:31 p.m.: Without citing any names, Rivers admitted in his pregame media availability that he needs to figure out a way to “relieve pressure” on certain members of his team.
He left it open to the reporters in attendance to speculate who he was talking about — always a risky move — but there is little mystery that Avery Bradley has struggled in his first playoff action as a point guard.
“I don’t mind the pressure on Paul [Pierce], honestly, but I want to take pressure off a couple other guys,” Rivers said. “Some guys, we’re just asking them to do things they can’t do, and we’ve got to relieve the pressure from them. Paul actually likes pressure. He doesn’t mind, [neither does] Carmelo. They don’t mind. That’s what they do. That’s why they make all that money.
“But we’re asking other guys right now to do way too much. We don’t have a lot of choices in the matter but we can add more guards on the floor at times with them. I just think it’s too much honestly. We have to figure out a way to relieve the pressure.”
The projected starters appear below.
6:19 p.m.: There is a buzz around North Station as we near tip-off. Fans heading into the Garden for Game 3 are being given “Boston Strong” T-shirts and a ceremony will be held between the first and second quarter recognizing those who assisted victims in the aftermath of last week’s marathon bombing. Also expect a moment of silence just before the national anthem.
8 a.m. ET: Welcome back, Celtics.
After more than two weeks without a home game, the Celtics take the court at TD Garden on Friday for something very close to a must-win game. Trailing the Knicks 2-0 in their best-of-seven series in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, the Celtics need a win or they can start making their early-summer plans immediately.
The Celtics are expecting an emotional night from the Boston fans, who have not had a chance to cheer on their team since last week’s events. Doc Rivers praised the fan base at practice on Thursday, saying “there’s no better crowd in sports than this city.” He will be counting on them to inspire his team to a victory in Game 3.
Join us for updates and analysis from TD Garden during the game, which tips off at 8 p.m. ET.
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