The Knicks found themselves down by 19 points at half, but the never say die attitude that got them near the top of the Eastern Conference made this game more than winnable down the stretch. Carmelo Anthony set a franchise record for free throws in a playoff game, but missed a few, including two in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter. With the score tied at 84 heading in to overtime, those missed points at the line proved to be the deciding factor. Melo struggled from the field all game long, leaving most shots short and ending just 10-35 from the field. Jason Terry provided all the offense in overtime for the Celtics, hitting a transition three and runner near the lane on back-to-back possessions. He capped off his heroic performance with a couple of game-clinching free throws and an uncontested layup, totaling nine overtime points.
Boston controlled the whole first half, jumping out to a 14-5 lead to start the game and using a 12-3 run right before halftime to build their lead to 19. All year long the Knicks were reliant on Carmelo Anthony to set the tone early, leading to a league-best average in points per first quarter. With New York already at a disadvantage in the scoring department due to J.R. Smith’s foolish suspension, they couldn’t afford for their superstar to come out ice cold, but that’s exactly what happened. Melo started the game 0-6 from the field, and the rest of his gang followed in suit, shooting 3-12 with five turnovers. Boston came out firing, but New York appeared to weather the storm when Anthony banked one in for the and-one to close the quarter.
The Celtics came out equally as hot in the second quarter as they did in the first, using an 8-0 run to work their lead up to 12. When things started getting physical, the refs took control of the game. Jeff Green, Paul Pierce, and Anthony were literally able to get both squad’s front courts in foul trouble as things became increasingly tightly officiated. With the Knicks still hanging around, the Celtics tried to deliver the knockout punch before half. Avery Bradley capped off a 12-3 Celtics run with a Prigioni-like steal off a make and then a kick out for a Pierce trey. Boston led by 19 by half.
The Knicks cut the lead to 10 by halfway through the third quarter and the Celtics paid for not being able to put them away. A monster Pierce dunk that looked straight out of 2004 allowed the crowd back into the game, turning the momentum totally back Boston. But even with Melo on the bench, the Knicks all of a sudden caught fire. Led by Felton’s three treys, they cut the lead to three to end the period. We wondered in our preview who would step up in J.R.’s absence, and Felton proved to be up for the task, finishing with 27 points.
New York was able to tie the game at 72 right before the midway point of the fourth quarter, but it took until 1:18 left in the battle for them to get their first lead. Melo failed at a couple of hero shots in the final minute, but it came down to Pierce missing a Tyson Chandler contested jumper on the final possession, bringing on overtime.
The Knicks and Celtics get back at it on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden for Game 5. The time is to be determined. Make sure to get all of your coverage here at TOK.