BOSTON (AP) — Kevin Garnett sank the go-ahead basket with 14 seconds left, then stole the ball as the Boston Celtics overcame Carmelo Anthony’s 42 points and beat the depleted New York Knicks 96-93 to take a 2-0 lead in their playoff series on Tuesday night.
The Knicks played the entire second half without Amare Stoudemire, who had back spasms. Chauncey Billups missed the game with a sore left knee.
Garnett hit the decisive jump hook after backing Jared Jeffries into the lane. The Knicks then got the ball to Anthony in the left corner, where he was double-teamed by Paul Pierce and Glen Davis. Anthony passed inside to Jeffries, but Garnett stole the ball and called timeout with 4 seconds remaining.
The Knicks then fouled Delonte West, who made two free throws with 0.6 seconds to go.
Rajon Rondo led the Celtics with a career playoff-high 30 points.
Game 3 of the best-of-seven Eastern Conference first-round series is scheduled for Friday night in New York.
Anthony matched his career playoff high for points and set a new high with 17 rebounds. Toney Douglas had 14 points in place of Billups, whose status for Game 3 was uncertain.
Pierce had 20 points after missing his first five shots, and Ray Allen, who hit the game-winning 3-pointer in Boston’s 87-85 win in the opener, scored 18.
Anthony was the obvious choice to shoot on New York’s final possession. So Pierce and Davis swarmed him when he got the ball just inches from Boston’s bench, forcing him to pass to Jeffries, who tried an interior pass instead of going up with the shot.
The Knicks had gone ahead 91-88 with 2:35 left when Anthony took a pass beyond the left arc and made a 3-pointer despite being bumped by Pierce. Pierce followed with two free throws, then both teams missed jumpers.
On the next possession, Pierce drove the lane to draw a defender and fed a wide-open Garnett for a dunk that put the Celtics on top 92-91 with 49 seconds to go.
Jeffries followed with a layup, giving New York its last lead at 93-92 with 20 seconds left.
Now the sixth-seeded Knicks, who have given the third-seeded Celtics all they could handle in two down-to-the-wire games, must win at least one of two at home to bring the series back to Boston.
With the score tied at 59, the Celtics went on a 15-4 run led by Pierce’s seven points. Allen and Jeff Green hit 3-pointers during the surge that put Boston on top 74-63 with 45 seconds left in the third quarter.
Then Anthony single-handedly brought the Knicks back by scoring their first seven points of the fourth quarter while Boston managed just a jumper by Pierce. New York was making a game of it, down only 76-74 with 10:01 to play. At that point, Anthony had scored the Knicks’ last 13 points and 18 of 20.
After a timeout, Ronny Turiaf tied the game for the Knicks at 76 with a short shot.
Rondo, threading his way at high speed through New York’s big men, had 14 of Boston’s first 18 points after scoring just 10 in the entire first game. He went to the bench for a rest with the Celtics ahead 18-11 with 3:59 left in the first period. On one play, he sprinted like a wide receiver and hauled in a long pass from Garnett ahead of the field and drove for an easy layup.
But the Knicks scored the last eight points of the quarter to cut the lead to 23-21. The teams then took turns taking leads of no more than there points. The half ended with two free throws by Shawne Williams with 1.2 seconds remaining that put the Knicks ahead 45-44.
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