NEW YORK – Carmelo Anthony scored 34 points, Sixth Man of the Year J.R. Smith added 19, and New York took a 2-0 lead over the Boston Celtics with another dominant second half in an 87-71 victory last night at the Garden.
Raymond Felton added 16 points for the Knicks, who used a 27-4 run spanning halftime to blow it open and move halfway to their first series victory since the 2000 Eastern Conference semifinals. This is their first 2-0 lead since sweeping Toronto in the first round that year.
”For us, we know what type of team we are,” Anthony said. ”We know when we really buckle down on the defensive end, it’s been hard for teams.”
It’s been brutally difficult for Boston.
Paul Pierce scored 18 points for the Celtics, who will host Game 3 on Friday in their first home game since the Boston Marathon bombings.
They will have to be much sharper to avoid their first opening-round elimination since 2005, before they became one of the NBA’s power teams again.
”We have to figure out the offensive side of the ball and not be so stagnated,” Boston’s Kevin Garnett said. ”Figure out ways to score more often.”
Anthony had said the Knicks needed to treat the game as a ”must-win,” aware of the difficulty of winning in Boston on Friday with the emotional boost the Celtics will get from finally being home.
They showed that mentality after halftime, outscoring Boston 32-11 in the third quarter.
”I think guys know what’s at stake. We don’t have to talk about it,” veteran forward Kenyon Martin said. ”Guys know what it’s about right now and it’s about winning a championship.”
Garnett had 12 points and 11 rebounds, but battled foul trouble and spent too much time walking back to the bench with a raucous Madison Square Garden crowd finally experiencing playoff success again hounding him every step of the way.
Plagued by turnovers in Game 1, when they managed eight points in the decisive fourth quarter, the Celtics watched it all fall apart 12 minutes earlier this time. They managed only 23 points after halftime, two fewer than in their 85-78 loss Saturday.
”I thought we attacked them in the first half, but they hung in there,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. ”They didn’t let us throw a knockout punch and I thought in the second half they turned that on us and they threw a knockout punch. Several.”
Anthony followed his 36-point opener by making 8 of 13 shots in the second half to finish 11 of 24 for the game.
In other matches Golden State Warriors beat Denver Nuggets 131-117 and Miami Heat defeated Milwaukee Bucks 98-86 to take a 2-0 lead in the series.