BOSTON - Despite a valiant comeback try by the Boston Celtics, both in the series and the game, the New York Knicks are in the second round of the NBA playoffs for the first time since 2000.
The Celtics, who rallied from an 0-3 deficit and created designs on becoming the first NBA team ever to come back to win after being three games down, ran off 20 straight points in the fourth quarter and were within four with 3:34 left. But Carmelo Anthony took over in the closing minutes and the Knicks left TD Garden with an 88-80 Game 6 victory on Friday to win the series 4-2.
New York moves on to face Indiana in the second round.
Anthony, who finished with 21 points, seven rebounds and five assists (he had six assists in the first five games), scored seven points in the closing minutes to help hold off the Boston charge, which started with the Celtics trailing by 26 points with less than 10 minutes left in the game.
The game might mark more than the end of the season for the Celtics, who did all they could without the injured Rajon Rondo. It could also mark the end of the Boston career of Paul Pierce. He has a year left on his contract at close to $15 million, but the team can buy him out for $5 million.
Last year, with the Celtics trying to stay alive against Miami in the conference final, Pierce went 4-for-18 from the floor and scored nine points. Friday night, he was 4-for-15, including 1-for-9 from 3-point range, and had 14 points, seven rebounds, five assists and five turnovers.
Iman Shumpert had 17 points and Pablo Prigioni 14 (going 4-for-6 on 3-pointers) in a balanced New York attack.
Jeff Green led the Celtics with 21 points before fouling out, while Kevin Garnett had 15 points and 10 rebounds and Jason Terry 14 points.
With Pierce going 1-for-10 from the floor, the Knicks probably should have led by 25 or more at the half. Instead, New York saw half of an 18-point lead evaporate before an old-fashioned 3-point play by Anthony with 4.5 seconds left in the half made it 39-27 at the break.
The Celtics missed their first nine 3-pointers before Green and Terry connected during a 10-0 run in the second quarter. They ended the half with 11 turnovers.
The Knicks then came out and had the lead back up to 18 3:04 into the second half. But Boston again answered, cutting it to 10 on a Terry three with 4:38 left in the third quarter.
Then came a 12-2 New York burst, with Shumpert nailing a pair of threes, and doing the Terry "Jet" celebration down the court. The burst gave the Knicks a 20-point lead after three and had boos coming from the crowd. Some started leaving.
They should have stayed. Things got interesting after the Knicks built a 26-point lead early in the fourth quarter.
NOTES: Knicks 3-point specialist Steve Novak was missing because of back spasms. "I just think it went out, locked up on him (in Game 5)," coach Mike Woodson said. "He couldn't come back after the halftime, so we've got to move on." ... Celtics coach Doc Rivers, ending his pregame media chat, said, "Let's hope we're talking about basketball after the game." ... No. 1 Knicks fan Spike Lee, resplendent in Knicks orange, arrived about an hour before tipoff. When Celtics radio analyst Cedric Maxwell approached, Lee waved him away. They then had a chat. ... Injured Knick Amar'e Stoudemire, who underwent right knee surgery on March 11 and hasn't played since, was on the floor working out before the teams came out. He isn't expected to play Sunday (regardless of which round) but could return later in a second-round series. "I don't think he's at that stage yet of playing in a game," Woodson said. ... Recently retired former Knick and Celtic Rasheed Wallace was also out shooting around. ... Rivers on the unpleasantness between the teams: "There's nothing wrong with a little bit of healthy dislike." ... The Elias Sports Bureau says the Celtics became the first team in NBA playoff history to be perfect from the foul line in two straight games: 19 of 19 and 17 of 17. ... Only the 1951 Knicks, the 1994 Nuggets and 2003 Trail Blazers rallied to force a Game 7 before the Celtics and Rockets both attempted to do it Friday night. The other 100 3-0 leaders entering this season won their series and did it in less than seven games. In fact, according to Elias, Boston and Houston are only the 11th and 12th teams to force a Game 6.