NEW YORK (AP)—The Boston Celtics made the New York Knicks’ return to the post-season a brief one.
Now the Celtics have a long break before that expected trip to Miami. Series at a Glance vs.
Celtics win series 4-0
Kevin Garnett had 26 points and 10 rebounds, Rajon Rondo added 21 points and
12 assists, and the Celtics swept their way into the Eastern Conference
semifinals, holding on for a 101-89 victory over the Knicks on Sunday.
Ray Allen and reserve Glen Davis each added 14 points for the Celtics, the
first team into the second round after sweeping a series for the first time
since a 3-0 victory over Indiana in 1992, the last series victory for their old
Big Three before Larry Bird retired.
They had a 23-point lead cut to four in the fourth quarter, but pulled away
again behind Garnett, who scored 20 after halftime.
The current Big Three of Garnett, Allen and Paul Pierce twice was extended
to seven games in the first round, but this one was far easier than expected
against the injury-weakened Knicks. The Celtics could now have a week off while
they wait for likely second-round opponent Miami, which was forced to a fifth
game earlier Sunday after a late rally by Philadelphia.
The Celtics almost faced the same scenario, but a Knicks comeback attempt
stalled in the final minutes.
“We know we have played very well when we’ve had rest and preparation time.
So those are always good,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said.
Carmelo Anthony had 32 points and nine rebounds, and Amare Stoudemire, who
decided to play after his back felt better, finished with 19 points and 12
boards but shot only 5 of 20 from the field.
“It was all heart. He just gave it all. With him and Carmelo going forward,
the Knicks are in good shape,” Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni said.
The Knicks shot 34 percent and were quickly dispatched in their first
playoff appearance since 2004, when they were also swept in the first round.
They haven’t won a playoff game in 10 years.
The Celtics were only 10-11 in their last 21 games of the regular season,
struggling to adjust to a changed lineup after trading center Kendrick Perkins
to Oklahoma City at the deadline and renewing questions they were too old. The
Knicks believed they could challenge them, but Chauncey Billups was lost for
good after straining his left knee in the final minute of Game 1 and Stoudemire
was never the same after hurting his back during warmups before Game 2.
Meanwhile, the Celtics got better as the series went along, pulling out two
close victories in Boston and saving their best for Madison Square Garden,
surrounded in orange as it was finally open for postseason basketball again.
But that couldn’t shake the Celtics, who held the Knicks to three field
goals in the second quarter to seize control and now will look ahead to an
expected showdown with the Heat.
Garnett made three straight field goals to make it 70-48 in the third
quarter before the Celtics let the Knicks back into it. Consecutive run-out
dunks by Anthony cut it to 14, and New York had it all the way down to 10 when
Shawne Williams’ 3-pointer with 36 seconds remaining trimmed it to 82-72 after
Stoudemire opened the fourth with a basket and Anthony followed, bringing it
within six and forcing Rivers to put Garnett back into the game. He made a pair
of free throws, but baskets by Stoudemire and Anthony Carter made it 84-80 with
7:34 to go.
“I thought we dropped the guard a little bit,” Rivers said. “Give them
credit, I thought they played desperate and you could see it in their play and
their defensive energy.”
But Boston would never let it get closer and finally put it away when
consecutive jumpers by Rondo and Garnett extended it to 95-85 with 4:22 to play.
Disappointed in their effort in a blowout loss Friday, the Knicks showed
plenty of fight. Anthony knocked Rondo down for a flagrant foul and Stoudemire
was called for a technical after he showed Delonte West in the back following
the Boston guard’s hard foul on Knicks rookie Landry Fields.
But New York, which went 42-40 to end a franchise-worst streak of nine
straight losing seasons and earn its first playoff berth since 2004, simply
didn’t have enough to match Boston, which got 13 points from Pierce.
The Celtics led 29-23 after one quarter, when Stoudemire missed all six
shots, then took control with their defense and some good work by their reserves
in the second. An 11-3 burst extended the lead to 17, and it grew to 19 in the
final minute on a three-point play by Jeff Green, acquired in the Perkins trade.
Stoudemire finally made his first field goal after that and the Celtics
brought a 55-38 lead into the half.
Notes: D’Antoni, while saying Rondo is a “very good basketball player,”
seems to feel his success is due more to the players around him. “I’d like to
see him play on Minnesota and see how he does,” D’Antoni said before the game.
“Everybody’s tied together and they have three Hall of Famers out there.” …
Billups said sitting out was “torture.” … Kemba Walker, who led Connecticut
to the NCAA championship, attended the game and sat with Mayor Michael
*Sixers rally by Heat, avoid sweep: Sixers won 86 - 82; Heat lead series 3-1
*Hawks take surprising lead; Atlanta win 88-85; Lead series 3-1