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Knicks Take 1-0 Series Lead Over Celtics

(AP/KATHY WILLENS)

(AP/KATHY WILLENS)

NEW YORK (AP) — Carmelo Anthony scored 36 points, and the New York Knicks beat the Boston Celtics 85-78 on Saturday in their playoff opener.

After knocking the Celtics from the top of the Atlantic Division, the Knicks took the first step to knocking them out of the playoffs by holding Boston to three baskets and eight points in the final period.

Anthony, the NBA’s scoring leader, shot only 13 for 29 from the field but scored eight points in the fourth quarter, including consecutive baskets late in the period that finally gave the Knicks breathing room in a tight game.

Game 2 is Tuesday night before the Celtics host Game 3 on Friday in what will be their first home game since the Boston Marathon bombings.

Jeff Green scored 26 points and Paul Pierce added 21 for the Celtics, who badly missed injured point guard Rajon Rondo, committing 21 turnovers that led to 20 points. The Knicks got their hands on the ball at will in the fourth quarter, when Boston shot 3 of 11.

Kevin Garnett had eight points and nine rebounds but shot only 4 of 12 from the field. Jason Terry, another veteran on a young Celtics team, missed all five shots off the bench.

The Celtics led after three quarters and tied the game for the final time at 72 on Garnett’s basket with 8:13 remaining. Anthony then made consecutive jumpers, and after the Celtics got back within three later in the period, he made a layup and a long jumper that gave New York an 83-76 advantage with 1:21 left.

Green made two free throws and the Celtics double-teamed Anthony, but he fired a pass to a wide-open Kenyon Martin under the basket to put it away with 40 seconds left.

J.R. Smith scored 15 points and Raymond Felton had 13 for the Knicks, while Martin finished with 10 points and nine rebounds in huge minutes for New York with Tyson Chandler struggling through a scoreless 20 minutes after barely playing late in the season because of a bulging disk.

The Knicks ended the Celtics’ five-year reign as Atlantic Division champions by going 54-28, winning their first division title since 1994 with their most victories since going 57-25 in 1996-97. The next step would be playoff success for New York, which hasn’t won a postseason series since 2000 and couldn’t even get a game against the Celtics two years ago.

The Celtics wore a special patch recognizing the difficult week in Boston following the bombings that killed three people at the Boston Marathon on Monday. Coach Doc Rivers said many players were calling home to check on their families Friday, when the Boston area was in lockdown while authorities searched for the suspect. That even affected the Celtics, as Rondo, out for the season with a knee injury, was unable to join the team Friday in New York because he couldn’t get out.

The Boston Fire Dept. Color Guard and FDNY color guard carried the flags onto the court before the national anthem, and Anthony and Pierce addressed the crowd before the game, with a few fans booing Pierce before many others yelled “Shhh!” so he could speak.

“Boston will rise and run again,” Pierce said.

Fans were supportive of Boston but not the Celtics, as Rivers expected. Garnett, whose clash with Anthony in a regular-season meeting resulted in a one-game suspension for Anthony after he attempted to confront Garnett outside the Celtics’ team bus, was loudly booed.

The Knicks threw up airballs on their first two attempts — Chris Copeland was woefully short on their first shot. But Anthony quickly got them untracked, hitting a pair of jumpers and then consecutive 3-pointers in a 12-2 spurt for a 12-6 lead. But Boston regrouped and rallied to take a 29-26 lead on Green’s 3-pointer as the first quarter ended.

It was close throughout the second, but the Knicks’ offense stalled late in the period, with too little ball movement and too much of Anthony holding the ball. Green scored 12 in the period and Boston led 53-49 at the break.

The Celtics opened a 70-63 lead late in the third, but New York got the final four points of the period, then opened the fourth with Felton’s jumper and Martin’s three-point play to go back ahead, 72-70.

The Knicks were without starting guard Pablo Prigioni because of a sprained ankle, and rookie Copeland was scoreless in his place. The Knicks were 16-2 with Prigioni in the starting lineup during the season.

Notes: The Knicks won three of four meetings in the regular season, winning the series for the first time since 2003-04. … The Celtics announced multiple initiatives to support victims affected by the Boston Marathon tragedy. Their Shamrock Foundation has committed to raise $200,000 to support The One Fund Boston through a $100,000 pledge from the foundation and multiple team initiatives to raise an additional $100,000. … Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez was at the game and loudly booed when shown on the overhead video screen. Even Sanchez appeared to laugh.


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