The offense was often not pretty, but the New York Knicks pulled out a tough 85-78 victory over the Boston Celtics in Game 1 of the first round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs on Saturday at Madison Square Garden.
Carmelo Anthony led the way with 36 points, although he did struggle at times from the field, shooting 13-of-29. J.R. Smith added 15 points and Raymond Felton had 13 points and six assists. The Knicks shot just 40.5 percent overall, but nine three-pointers, including four by Anthony, helped make up for the poor shooting.
Despite Tyson Chandler ailing, the Knicks' defense clamped down in the fourth quarter, holding the Celtics to just eight points. Boston really missed the ability of Rajon Rondo to drive and create for others, as the Celtics simply could not get many good looks at the basket. Turnovers were also a major problem, with Boston coughing it up numerous times down the stretch and 20 times for the game.
Jeff Green led the Celtics with 26 points on 8-of-15 shooting. Paul Pierce had 21 points and seven assists while Avery Bradley had 15 points, but Boston got little help from anybody else. The Celtics' bench managed just four points for the game, while the Knicks' bench had 33. Boston only managed 25 points in the second half, the fewest ever in a half in their playoff history.
Pablo Prigioni sat out the game due to a sprained ankle, so the Knicks started with a never-before-used lineup that featured Anthony, Chandler, Felton, Iman Shumpert and Chris Copeland. After a few empty possessions, Anthony went to work, nailing his first four shots and whipping Madison Square Garden into a frenzy as New York jumped out to a 12-6 lead.
Anthony scored 13 points in the first quarter, but after his 4-of-4 start, he made just 1-of-7 to end the quarter. The Celtics withstood the initial barrage, clawing back into the game behind Green and Pierce. Green capped off a 10-2 run to end the quarter with a three at the buzzer that put the Celtics up 29-26 after one.
Boston extended their lead to six at the outset of the second quarter thanks to Green, who at one point scored 10 straight for the Celtics. With Smith on the bench due to foul trouble, Jason Kidd helped pick up the scoring slack for New York, vaulting the Knicks back into it with a pair of three-pointers.
New York grabbed a four-point lead midway through the second quarter, but Boston finished the half on a 13-5 run on the backs of Green and Avery Bradley to take a 53-49 lead into the break. Green had 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting at halftime, while Bradley used his excellent off-ball cutting to help score 11 points in the first two quarters. The Celtics shot 52.6 percent for the half and racked up 15 assists.
Meanwhile, Anthony was having a rough go of it, as the Knicks' offense devolved into a bunch of isolations that usually turned out poorly. Anthony had 19 points at halftime, but he shot just 6-of-15. Despite the foul trouble, Smith had 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting in the half.
After the entertaining first half, the second half started out extremely sloppy for both teams. Neither offense was particularly crisp, with the Celtics' excellent ball movement from the first half mostly gone. Boston did not score for the first three-plus minutes of the half and only managed 17 points in the quarter, but they still led by three heading into the final frame before the offense completely folded.
Game 2 is on Tuesday at Madison Square Garden.