NEW YORK -- Carmelo Anthony topped 30 points for the second straight game and the New York Knicks once again shut down the Boston Celtics in the second half in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference playoffs on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden.
That formula led to a decisive 87-71 Knicks victory, giving them a 2-0 lead in the series. Game 3 is Friday in Boston.
Anthony, the NBA's regular-season scoring champion, poured in 34 points. He accumulated 36 points in the Game 1 victory. J.R. Smith added 19 points off the New York bench. Kenyon Martin deposited 11 points and blocked four shots in his second strong game for the Knicks in the series.
The Knicks held the Celtics to a franchise playoff record 23 second-half points. The previous low allowed in a half by the Knicks in the post-season was 25, which the Celtics mustered in Game 1.
Forward Kevin Garnett was again a non-factor for Boston. He fouled out with 6:10 left and the Celtics trailing 84-69. Garnett, who scored just eight points in Game 1, contributed 12 points in 24 minutes.
Paul Pierce led the Celtics with 18 points.
In Game 1, the Celtics struggled in the fourth quarter, scoring just eight points. In Game 2, it turned out to be the third quarter that haunted coach Doc Rivers' team.
The Knicks outscored Boston 32-11 in the third to take a commanding 74-59 lead. The Celtics converted just 4 of their 18 shots from the field.
The nightmare for the Celtics continued in the fourth as they made only 3 of 18 shots (16.7 percent).
"They attacked us," said Rivers. "We didn't handle it very well. We have to be able to do better. We gave up 3s that we hadn't given up in the series. I didn't think we came out with the same mentality we had in the first half.
"I need to find out why in the next two days. Our offense today was directly linked to our bad defense in the third quarter."
Anthony scored 13 points in the quarter as the Knicks took advantage of Boston's smaller lineup. With Garnett and Jeff Green in foul trouble, Anthony was able to maneuver around the perimeter where he did the bulk of his scoring.
"In the playoffs it is not always going to be perfect for any player," Woodson said. "Melo (Anthony) struggled but at the end of the night he was still there making the plays we needed him to make from an offensive standpoint.
"He figures it out, and the great ones do that."
Tyson Chandler's conventional three-point play not only provided the Knicks with a 55-50 cushion, but it also resulted in Garnett's fourth foul of the night with 8:13 left in the third quarter.
The Knicks grabbed a 52-50 lead on a Raymond Felton layup with 8:49 to go in the quarter. The basket came in the midst of a 22-4 run that took up 7:00 of the quarter.
"We got stops and Raymond (Felton) did a great job of pushing it and getting us into something," offered Knicks coach Mike Woodson. "He changed the game in the third quarter. That's kind of how our offense has been going all season.
"I thought in the third quarter we were as good as we have been all year as far as ball movement, pushing and making shots."
New York opened the quarter on a 10-2 blitz. Iman Shumpert nailed two 3-pointers to fuel the run.
"It's just about being extra aggressive," explained Martin of the successful defensive effort in the quarter. "We weren't helping one another by talking. That's an easy fix."
Just as they did in Game 1, the Celtics led at the half. Boston outscored the Knicks 26-15 in the final 9:34 of the second quarter to grab the 48-42 advantage. Pierce and Avery Bradley contributed six points apiece during that span.
The bulk of Boston's scoring came with Garnett on the bench. He was whistled for his third foul with 5:30 left in the half and left with six points and three rebounds.
Anthony was shaky in the Knicks' half-court offense, making just 3 of 11 shots from the floor. He did a nice job of getting to the rim, however, nailing 8 of 9 free throws. Anthony led all scorers in the first half with 15 points.
The Knicks' bench played a big factor in their 26-20 lead after the first quarter. Smith, Jason Kidd and Martin combined for 14 points. Smith had nine points, going 4 of 4 from the field, in eight minutes.
Garnett picked up two quick fouls that forced him to to the Boston bench just 3:30 minutes into the game.
Point guard Pablo Prigioni returned to the Knicks' starting lineup after missing Game 1 with an ankle injury. He dished out five assists and didn't commit a turnover in 17:35 of action.
NOTES: The Celtics wore "Boston Stands as One" shirts during pregame warm-ups as a tribute to those affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. Proceeds from the sale of the shirts will be donated to The One Fund Boston. ... The Celtics Shamrock Foundation has committed to raise $200,000 to also support The One Fund Boston. ...J.R. Smith received the NBA's Sixth Man Award. He came off the Knicks' bench in all 80 games he played during the regular season, averaging 18.1 points. He was the first Knick to win the award since John Starks in 1996-97. ... The Celtics' 14-28 road record is the worst of any playoff team in the postseason. ...Woodson was named Eastern Conference Coach of the Month for April. New York went 8-2.