June 20, 2018
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Anthony propels Knicks past Celtics for 3-0 series lead

By Ken Powtak, The Sports Xchange

BOSTON — Carmelo Anthony scored 26 points and Raymond Felton had 15 points with 10 assists, leading the New York Knicks to a 90-76 win over the Boston Celtics on Friday and giving the Knicks a 3-0 lead in their opening-round best-of-seven series.

J.R. Smith scored 15 points for the Knicks before getting ejected with a Flagrant 2 foul for elbowing Jason Terry with 7:06 to play.

Game 4 is Sunday afternoon in Boston. No NBA team has ever come back from an 3-0 deficit.

Jeff Green led the Celtics with 21 points and Paul Pierce had 17, but Pierce had a dismal shooting night going 6-for-15. Kevin Garnett added 12 points and 17 rebounds.

“We set the tone defensively tonight and we were active,” Knicks coach Mike Woodson said. “That’s the way you’re going to win on the road.”

“Closeout games are always tough,” Woodson said. “I just told our guys at the end of the game, ‘Let’s be humble. You followed the game plan and it worked.’”

Anthony has never felt the happiness of a playoff sweep. It’s something he’d like to experience.

“To be honest with you, to accomplish that we be spectacular,” Anthony said. “It would be a dream come true. I never swept anyone. I’ve been on the other side of (the floor). I know they’ll come out and play hard.”

The Celtics know they have history against them.

Boston has advanced to the at least the second round every year since Garnett arrived, winning a title and losing in the NBA Finals. The Celtics lost to Miami last year in the Eastern Conference finals.

“Listen, you’re down 3-0, it’s a simple message, ‘You have to win the next one,’” Boston coach Doc Rivers said. “That’s where it starts.”

“Just play together,” Green said. “We got a lot of easy looks tonight and missed a lot of easy layups. I think that affected us on the defensive end.”

After a rough shooting start, Anthony scored eight points during an 11-4 run over the final four minutes of the second quarter, helping the Knicks open a 47-31 halftime advantage.

The Celtics walked off the floor at halftime to a spattering of boos from a home crowd that came charged up to try to help them. Instead, it left many in the sellout crowd wondering if they may have seen the last season of Garnett, who came along with the now-departed Ray Allen, and carried Boston to the 2008 NBA crown.

The Knicks won the Atlantic Division for the first time since Garnett came to Boston in the summer of 2007. Now, they have the Celtics on the edge of elimination.

It may have been a sign of how tough things would be for the Celtics in the first half when both Pierce and Garnett missed easy put-backs on the first possession.

But, make no mistake about it, the Knicks’ defense was just too much for Boston’s aging stars Pierce and Garnett — and the rest of the supporting cast of Celtics.

The defense that stifled Boston for both second halves in Games 1 and 2 was there from the opening tip Friday.

After the halftime break, which concluded with Macklemore’s “Can’t Hold Us” playing during the end of warmups, Anthony simply showed the crowd why the Celtics couldn’t stop him.

With Boston attempting to make a charge in the third, he scored 10 of the Knicks’ 14 points and held the Celtics off by himself. The shots included an off-balance baseline fadeaway, and a pair of 3-pointers. The last had some Knicks fans in the crowd chanting “MVP! MVP!”

The Knicks led 68-52 after three quarters.

Smith’s steal and breakaway jam made it 75-54 with just over nine minutes to play. The margin was never less than 12 the rest of the way.

In the first quarter, New York pulled to a 12-5 edge midway into the quarter on Felton’s driving shot. The Knicks clogged up things defensively for the rest of the quarter, owning a 23-18 edge after one. Pierce was 1-for-6 from the field in the opening quarter with a pair of turnovers, once getting stripped by Iman Shumpert beyond the 3-point line that led to an easy New York fastbreak and a “clear path” foul by Terry.

But Anthony wasn’t much better, going 2-for-7.

One of the two superstars got hot late in the first half.

The Knicks opened their first double-digit lead of the game (34-23) on Felton’s 3 from the right wing midway into the second.

From there, it was Anthony’s time to shine. He nailed three consecutive tough shots, including two fallaways, from different spots. He capped his personal run by scoring off an alley-oop. Felton then nailed a long 3, giving New York a 47-29 edge 59 seconds before halftime.

Late in the half, Terry was standing all alone in front of Boston’s bench almost begging for the ball, but Green drove against three defenders and kicked it out to Pierce, who front-rimmed a forced 3. It was one of many signs that New York’s defense just had the Celtics very confused.

NOTES: It was the first Celtics game in the TD Garden since the Boston Marathon bombings. At the end of the first quarter, the team honored first responders, including members of the Boston, Watertown and Cambridge police departments, FBI agents and doctors and nurses from local hospitals in their “Heroes Among Us” program they do at the end of each opening quarter. There was a nice touch by the PA announcer — “They are all and will always be heroes among us” — when they were introduced. … There was heavy security outside the Garden, with bomb-sniffing dogs around the outside and inside of the building. … Anthony averaged 35.0 points in the first two games and said “I’ll be zoned in” during Friday’s practice when he was asked how he’d react to the raucous crowd. … Boston coach Doc Rivers said guard Avery Bradley missed part of Thursday’s practice with a “stomach ache.” Rivers also said Garnett wasn’t bothered during Thursday’s practice by the hip pointer he suffered in Game 2. “He looked good,” Rivers said. … Boston guard Rajon Rondo, out for the season after he underwent surgery for a torn ACL on Feb. 12, shot free throws on the court about an hour before tip-off.

NBA NOTEBOOK: The Oklahoma City Thunder announced Friday that guard Russell Westbrook is out indefinitely after tearing the lateral meniscus in his right knee. Westbrook will have surgery to repair the injury, which he sustained during Game 2 of the Thunder’s playoff series against the Houston Rockets on Wednesday. It is not known how long he will be out, but Yahoo! Sports reported that a source close to Westbrook said that he might return by the NBA Finals if the team makes it that far. Metta World Peace of the Los Angeles Lakers returned from the injury after two weeks. Westbrook, a three time All-Star, averaged 23.2 points, 7.4 assists, a career-high 5.2 rebounds and 1.77 steals in 82 games this season. … Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade is getting treatment for his sore right knee and his status for Sunday’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks is not known. Heat Erik Spoelstra told reporters that Wade is still recovering from the three bone bruises that kept him out of six games near the end of the regular season. Wade scored just four points Thursday on 1-of-12 shooting, but he also had 11 assists, nine rebounds, five steals and two blocks. … Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry is questionable for Friday night’s game against the Denver Nuggets. Curry sprained his left ankle during Game 2 of their series on Tuesday and did not practice Thursday. The injury is not related to his surgically-repaired right ankle. … Former coach Flip Saunders could replace David Kahn as the Minnesota Timberwolves’ president of basketball operations, NBA.com reported. Saunders, 58, is reportedly negotiating a contract that could run through the 2017-18 season with option years and worth more than $9 million over the full five years. The team could announce Saunders’ hiring and Kahn’s firing next week.

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