The New York Knicks scored 32 third-quarter points last night, nine more than the Boston Celtics managed in the entire second half, to open a 2-0 lead in their National Basketball Association playoff series.
The defending-champion Miami Heat, the Eastern Conference’s top seed, defeated the Milwaukee Bucks 98-86 to take a 2-0 lead in their opening-round series. In Denver, the Golden State Warriors topped the Denver Nuggets 131-117 to even their Western Conference series at one game apiece.
Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony scored 34 points in the 87-71 victory in front of a sold-out crowd of 19,033 at New York’s Madison Square Garden. The Knicks erased a six-point halftime deficit by outscoring the Celtics 32-11 in the third quarter and have won the first two games of a best-of-seven playoff series for the first time since 2000, the last time New York advanced past the opening round.
“We know what type of team we are, and we know that when we really buckle down on the defensive end that it’s been hard for teams,” Anthony, 28, said in a news conference. “We saw that all season long, but now in the playoffs, everything is just magnified times 10.”
The NBA’s scoring champion, 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” for the second straight playoff game as Anthony scored 13 points in the third quarter.
“In the third quarter we were as good as we’ve been all year in terms of ball movement and making shots,” Knicks coach Mike Woodson told reporters.
J.R. Smith, the league’s Sixth Man of the Year, added 19 points off the bench for the Knicks. He scored five points in the final six seconds of the first quarter, prompting a kneeling windmill celebration at halfcourt and the first standing ovation of the night from home fans.
Point guard Raymond Felton contributed 16 points and seven rebounds. He said after the game that successful offensive contributions from Knicks role players have allowed freedom on the court for Anthony, who has 70 points in the series.
“We just have to continue to do a better job of making shots and creating plays for ourselves so it opens up for him and they don’t have to sit there and key in on him and double-team on him,” Felton said. “At the same time, he’s doing a great job of passing out of the double team.”
Paul Pierce scored 18 points for Boston, which lost point guard Rajon Rondo to a season-ending knee injury in January. The Celtics scored 23 points in the second half, three days after managing 25 points in the second half of Game 1.
“They say the series hasn’t started until the road team wins, but I’m positive the series just started because we’re down 2-0,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers told reporters.
The series shifts now to Boston, where the teams will play on April 26 and April 28, the Celtics’ first home games since three people were killed and at least 175 were injured by a pair of bombs at the Boston Marathon on April 15. For the second consecutive game, the Celtics warmed up in yellow T-shirts that said “Boston Stands as One.”
“We want to win for the city, it would be terrific,” Rivers said. “That is not anything I’m going to use in a press conference or with our players. We should want to win because we want to win, and then the rest of the part, if we win, would be great for the city.”
At AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami, LeBron James had 19 points, eight rebounds and six assists for the Heat, while guard Dwyane Wade scored a team-high 21. Miami used a 12-0 run at the start of the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach.
The Heat took a 47-43 lead into halftime, and as in Game 1 four nights ago -- when Miami outscored the Bucks by 16 points in the second half -- took over in the final quarter.
The worst rebounding team in the league during the regular season, the Heat grabbed 43 rebounds to Milwaukee’s 33.
“Well, we held the court. We protected it for two games,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra told reporters. “We did what we were supposed to do and that’s it. Now we have to move on.”
Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova scored 21 points while center Larry Sanders contributed 14 points. Milwaukee guards Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings, the team’s two leading scorers in the regular season, were a combined 5-22 from the floor and missed all 10 of their 3-pointers.
The Heat have now won 44 of their last 48 games. The team is 22-4 at home in its last nine postseason series dating back to the 2010-11 season.
The Heat and Bucks play Game 3 tomorrow in Milwaukee.
Stephen Curry had 30 points and 13 assists for the Warriors, who broke the Nuggets’ 24-game home winning streak at the Pepsi Center in Denver.
Golden State hit 51 of 79 field-goal attempts for 65 percent shooting to set a franchise postseason record. The Warriors went 14-of-25 on 3-pointers.
Jarrett Jack added 26 and Harrison Barnes scored 24 points for the Warriors, who had a 61-53 halftime advantage.
Ty Lawson and reserve Corey Brewer each scored 19 for the Nuggets and Andre Iguodala and Andre Miller added 18 points apiece.
Golden State hosts Game 3 on April 26 in Oakland, California.