The NBA’s scoring champion, Anthony added six rebounds and four steals, while Knicks guard J.R. Smith scored 15 points at New York’s Madison Square Garden. Celtics forward Jeff Green scored a team-high 26 points in the loss.
The crowd of 19,033 stood for the final three minutes of the victory, New York’s first win to open a playoff series since 2001. The Celtics had as many fourth-quarter turnovers -- eight -- as they did points.
“In the playoffs the first game is always one of the biggest games, especially when you’re at home,” Knicks guard Raymond Felton said. “We knew Boston was going to come in here and wasn’t going to lay down, but that’s playoff basketball and we grinded it out.”
It was both teams’ second game since three people were killed and at least 175 were injured by a pair of bombs at the Boston Marathon on April 15. One of the suspects in the attack was taken into custody two nights ago as most of Boston and surrounding towns was put into lockdown, while the other was killed in an altercation with police earlier on April 19.
The Celtics, who practiced at Columbia University while the events were unfolding, warmed up in yellow t-shirts that said “Boston Stands as One” and wore patches on their jerseys. Anthony and Celtics forward Paul Pierce addressed the crowd prior to the game.
“Our prayers go out to the families and the city of Boston,” Anthony said after the game. “In a situation like today, we are one. It’s all about the U.S., it’s our country, and it’s sad that we have to go through unfortunate tragedies like that.”
The second seed in the Eastern Conference behind LeBron James and the defending-champion Miami Heat, the Knicks won the Atlantic Division this year for the first time in 19 seasons. New York has not won a playoff series since 2000.
A six-time All-Star, Anthony averaged 28.7 points per game this season to become the first Knick since Bernard King in 1985 to win an NBA scoring title. The crowd chanted “M-V-P, M-V-P” after he scored his final points, a jump shot from the corner that gave the Knicks a seven-point lead with 1:21 remaining.
“He made the plays that we needed him to make,” Knicks coach Mike Woodson said in a press conference. “That’s what the great ones do.”
Green paced Boston to a 53-49 halftime lead, scoring 20 points in the first two quarters on 7-of-10 shooting. The lead grew to as much as seven during the third quarter, before the Knicks went on a 9-0 run, punctuated by a three-point play by Kenyon Martin that brought the crowd to its feet with 9:26 remaining in the game. Boston never led again.
“It was the first playoff game and I’m pretty sure guys were anxious to get out there, a lot of energy, a lot of emotions,” Anthony said. “Once that calmed down we got back to playing the way we’ve been playing all along.”
Pierce had 21 points and seven assists, while forward Kevin Garnett added eight points and nine rebounds. New York held the Celtics to 25 second half points, and forced 20 turnovers.
“It was a total team effort in terms of how we covered for one another when there were breakdowns defensively in the second half,” Woodson said.
The oldest team in the NBA, the Knicks played without guard Pablo Prigioni, who sprained his right ankle in the last game of the season, and Marcus Camby, who has not played this month. Martin, who sprained his left ankle two weeks ago, played 28 minutes, and replaced center Tyson Chandler late in the game.
The Celtics have made the playoffs in each of the past six seasons, winning the NBA title in 2008 and losing in the finals in 2010. These two teams last met in a playoff series in 2011, when Boston swept New York in four games.
-- Editor: Jay Beberman
To contact the reporter on this story: Eben Novy-Williams in New York at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at firstname.lastname@example.org