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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Rondo's 20 assists carry Celts in rout


NEW YORK — No fantastic finish needed for the Boston Celtics this time.

News photo
No contest: New York's Carmelo Anthony drives around Boston's Paul Pierce in the first half of Game 3 on Friday night. The Celtics won 113-96 and lead the first-round series 3-0. AP PHOTO

They simply spoiled Madison Square Garden's postseason homecoming party right from the start.

Paul Pierce scored 38 points, Ray Allen added 32, and Rajon Rondo had a Celtics' playoff-record 20 assists as Boston beat the New York Knicks 113-96 on Friday night to take a 3-0 in their first-round playoff series.

Rondo had 15 points and 11 rebounds for the Celtics, who pulled out two close games in Boston but never trailed in this one, dominating the first playoff game at MSG in seven years. They will go for the sweep Sunday afternoon, and no NBA team has ever lost a series after winning the first three games.

Boston coach Doc Rivers said he rarely talks to his team about the crowd environment, but the former Knicks player made an exception Friday knowing the stage.

"My main concern is this was not entertainment coming in here today. This was a competition and I thought we came with that mentality," Rivers said.

After winning the two games in Boston despite trailing in the final half-minute of both, the Celtics scored the first nine points of this one and never really let it get much closer.

"You come out and you hit them first. You don't give the crowd a reason to get involved. That was big, when we came out with that run to start the game. We were comfortable from there on out," Pierce said.

Carmelo Anthony had 15 points and 11 rebounds but shot 4-for-16 for the Knicks, who were booed as they walked off the court trailing by 23 points after three quarters.

"You can't give them that big an opening that they can smell blood," New York coach Mike D'Antoni said.

Exactly 10 years to the day since their last home playoff victory, the Knicks were outclassed in the same way they have been so many times in their forgettable decade since.

With Chauncey Billups sidelined again with a knee injury, Amare Stoudemire limited by his back spasms and Anthony unable to duplicate his 42-point performance from Game 2, New York lacked the firepower to match the defending Eastern Conference champions.

Hawks 88, Magic 84

In Atlanta, Jamal Crawford banked in a 3-pointer with 5.7 seconds left to cap a brilliant second half and lead the Hawks to a 2-1 lead in their Eastern Conference playoff series.

Atlanta's Zaza Pachulia and Orlando's Jason Richardson were ejected with 2:22 remaining after a confrontation under the basket. The teams swapped the lead four times after that near-brawl until Al Horford put the Hawks ahead for good with 46.6 seconds remaining.

But Crawford, who scored 18 of his 23 points after halftime, hit the biggest shot of all. With the shot clock winding down, he put up a jumper over Jameer Nelson that struck high on the backboard and went in.

Lakers 100, Hornets 86

In New Orleans, Kobe Bryant scored 30 points, Pau Gasol added 17 points and 10 rebounds, and Los Angeles took control of the first-round playoff series.

Andrew Bynum added 14 points and 11 rebounds and Lamar Odom had 13 points for the two-time defending champs, who took the lead for good when Ron Artest made a layup as he was fouled to make it 13-10.

The victory gave the Lakers a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.

Chris Paul had 22 points and eight assist for the Hornets, who managed to stay within single digits for long stretches of the game but never truly threatened to take the lead.

Landry scored 23 points for New Orleans, while Trevor Ariza had 12 points and 12 rebounds and Emeka Okafor had 15 points.

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Visit The Japan Times' website to read a roundup of Saturday's bj-league games.

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