NEW YORK — Carmelo Anthony started the playoffs exactly where he left off the regular season.
The NBA scoring champion poured in 36 points to lead the New York Knicks past the Boston Celtics 85-78 Saturday in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs before 19,033 at Madison Square Garden.
The Knicks closed the game out with a 13-6 run after Kevin Garnett tied it for Boston, 72-72, with 8:15 left. Anthony scored eight in the burst.
Anthony’s long jumper from the right side with 1:21 remaining moved the Knicks’ lead to 83-76. His 3-point play on a drive and foul gave New York an 81-76 cushion with 2:31 to go.
Anthony won his first scoring title with a 28.7 average.
Jeff Green led the Celtics with a personal playoff-high 26 points and Paul Pierce added 21 points and seven assists.
Garnett, who averaged 14.8 points during the season, was limited to eight points on 4-of-12 shooting from the field.
Anthony finished 13-of-29 from the floor, including 4-of-6 on 3-pointers. He was also 6-of-6 from the line. J.R. Smith added 15 off the Knick bench.
“It’s a wonderful feeling knowing we got our first win of the series on our home court,” Anthony said. “We took care of business.”
Boston led 70-67 after three but was held to only eight fourth-quarter points on 3-of-11 shooting (27.3 percent). It turned the ball over 20 times, 11 times in the second half.
The 25 second-half points allowed by the Knicks tied the lowest point total in a half by an opponent in Knicks playoff history. Miami scored 25 points on May 19, 2000, also in the second half.
“We made some adjustments,” Knicks coach Mike Woodson said of his team’s second-half defense, particularly in the last quarter. “The first half our backside defense wasn’t solid. We were pretty good on the strong side of the ball, but our backside was awfully weak, so we went back and looked at that and I thought we adjusted there.
“I thought our pick-and-roll coverage was pretty good in the second half. It was a total team effort in terms of how we covered up for one another.”
The Celtics’ bench contributed just four points, all from Courtney Lee, while the Knicks’ subs were led by a pair of warriors. Jason Kidd, 40, and Kenyon Martin, 35, combined for 18 points, playing valuable minutes in the second half.
Martin scored 10 points, grabbed a team-high nine rebounds and blocked two shots in relief of starting center Tyson Chandler, who was in early foul trouble and failed to score.
“Kenyon (Martin) has been on some winning teams, but not where he has won the big one,” Woodson said. “To me, it’s a plus to have veteran guys. That is no knock on the young kids, but to have these veteran guys step up and still make a contribution to your team is major, I think.”
Kidd, who won an NBA title with Dallas in 2011, chipped in with five points, three assists and three steals without turning the ball over in 35:22 of action. His three steals all came within the last 4:48 of the game.
“I love watching him,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said of Kidd. “I didn’t like watching him today, though. He beats you in the ground with his brain. If you think quicker than the guy can move, you’re going to be quicker.”
Garnett sat out most of the third quarter after picking up his third foul, but the Celtics clung to a 70-67 lead.
“Playing on the road and against a good team that’s energized, you don’t help yourself with 20 turnovers,” Garnett said. “The Knicks didn’t win their division because they were lazy or because they were a B team. My hat goes off to them. They played well.”
Boston snapped a 44-44 tie by outscoring the Knicks 9-5 to end the half with a 53-49 advantage. The Celtics maintained the lead despite Garnett getting only six points.
Boston, however, did receive balanced scoring, as Green had 20 points, Avery Bradley scored 11 and Pierce added 10.
Anthony came out blazing in the first quarter, scoring 10 of the Knicks’ first 12 points. He finished with 13, but didn’t receive a lot of scoring help as only three other Knicks contributed points.
“I wanted to get off to a good start, make some shots and make the game easier for everyone else,” Anthony said. “I am pretty sure guys were anxious to get out there.”
Raymond Felton, Smith and Kenyon Martin combined for only 11 points as Boston held a 29-26 margin after the first.
Anthony and Pierce addressed the crowd before the game, thanking the fans for their support and prayers in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings.
Game 2 is Tuesday at Madison Square Garden.
NOTES: Anthony and Chris Copeland were selected Eastern Conference’s Player and Rookie of the Month for April, respectively. Anthony averaged 36.9 points and 9.9 rebounds in 10 games. In scoring at least 40 points in three straight games, Anthony became only the second Knick to accomplish the feat, joining Bernard King. … Copeland ranked fourth among all rookies in scoring (15.0) and fourth in 3-point field goal percentage (.452). … The Celtics lead the postseason series with the Knicks, 8-6. … Garnett’s 25,274 points puts him in 15th place behind Reggie Miller (25,279) and Alex English (25,613. … Knicks guard Pablo Prigioni was out because of a sprained right ankle. He was replaced in the starting lineup by Iman Shumpert.