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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Celtics outlast Knicks B-squad, take 2-0 series lead

With Chauncey Billups ruled out with an ankle injury before Game 2 started, the Boston Celtics already had a distinct advantage.

When Amare Stoudemire left late in the first half with back spasms and didn't return, you had to think what else could go wrong for the New York Knicks.

Still, despite a severely limited roster of healthy bodies, Carmelo Anthony almost single-handily willed New York to victory with a playoff career-high 42 points, 17 rebounds and six assists.

Boston was able to hang on for a 96-93 win at TD Garden, giving them a 2-0 series lead. Just like in Game 1, the Knicks went up late but couldn't stop a later Celtics hoop (this time a KG hook shot) and then bungled their last possession (Jared Jeffries getting stripped by KG on the baseline).

After a terrible Game 1 performance, Carmelo was truly special last night. However, a mental error (letting almost four seconds lapse before fouling Ray Allen at the end) nearly overshadowed his dominant display.

There's not many other ways to say it then the Celtics know how to win and the Knicks are still learning how to do it when it really matters.

Rajon Rondo had a playoff career-high 30 points and seven assists. Paul Pierce had 20 points, Ray Allen scored 18 and KG put up 12 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.

Starting for Billups, Toney Douglas had 14 points and Jeffries was the only other Knick in double figures with 10 points (including the go-ahead hoop before KG's shot).

In an ideal world, Boston will sweep New York and the Celtics bench will get some more playing time in the next two games since they clearly need to get the work. Four players (Delonte West, Nenad Krstic, Jeff Green and Glen Davis) combined for 14 points last night and that's simply not good enough to win consistently in the playoffs.

The Cs got out to a 23-21 lead after the first quarter but the Knicks took a 45-44 halftime lead. Boston responded with a strong third quarter (30-22) and as I said, made enough plays to survive a shaky fourth (26-22 New York).

Boston shot 47.0% to New York's 35.6%. The Knicks hit two more 3-pointers (8-6) and nine more free throws (21-12). The most shocking stat was that New York had 16 more rebounds (53-37). The Celtics had seven more assists (21-14) and 12 more fast break points thanks to Rondo (16-4) along with six more points in the paint (40-34).

Billups supposedly will play in Game 3 and Stoudemire is getting an MRI today but you have to bet he'll suit up since New York's season will basically be on the line. It's in Boston's best interest to make this series as short as possible. If they get to the next round, it'll be much harder (yes, I realize these games have been really tight) against likely Miami.

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