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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Celtics sweep series against ailing Knicks

AP

NEW YORK — The Boston Celtics never let this develop into the intriguing series that was expected.

News photo
Who wants it more: Celtics forward Paul Pierce, right, tries to get past Knicks guard Anthony Carter on Sunday in Madison Square Garden in New York. Boston won 101-89 to sweep their first-round Eastern Conference playoff series 4-0. AP PHOTO

Instead, they turned it into the easiest one their current group has ever experienced.

Kevin Garnett had 26 points and 10 rebounds, Rajon Rondo added 21 points and 12 assists, and the Celtics swept their way into the Eastern Conference semifinals, holding on for a 101-89 victory over the New York Knicks on Sunday.

Ray Allen and reserve Glen Davis each added 14 points for the Celtics, the first team into the second round after sweeping a series for the first time since a 3-0 victory over Indiana in 1992, the last series victory for their old Big Three before Larry Bird retired.

"It's what we expected coming in. We knew it wasn't going to be easy, obviously Games 1 and 2, but we found a way to put it away," Rondo said. "We haven't swept a team in a long time, so it's good feeling."

The Celtics had a 23-point lead cut to four in the fourth quarter, but pulled away again behind Garnett, who scored 20 after halftime.

The current Big Three of Garnett, Allen and Paul Pierce twice was extended to seven games in the first round, but this one was far easier than expected against the injury-weakened Knicks. The Celtics could now have a week off while they wait for likely opponent Miami, which was forced to a fifth game earlier Sunday after a late rally by Philadelphia.

The Celtics almost faced the same scenario, but a Knicks comeback attempt stalled in the final minutes before they were saluted by their orange-clad crowd after delivering the best season in New York in a decade.

"Everybody understood what was at stake. Give a team some confidence, even in a 3-0 series to win a game, you never know what can happen," Pierce said. "So it was just very important for us to withstand the run. They made a great run and the crowd really got behind them, but in the fourth quarter we just really settled down in the last six or seven minutes, executed the offense and were able to put the game out of reach."

Carmelo Anthony had 32 points and nine rebounds, and Amare Stoudemire, who decided to play after his back felt better, finished with 19 points and 12 boards but shot only 5 of 20 from the field.

"It was all heart. He just gave it all. With him and Carmelo going forward, the Knicks are in good shape," New York coach Mike D'Antoni said.

The Knicks shot 34 percent and were quickly dispatched in their first playoff appearance since 2004, when they were also swept in the first round. They haven't won a playoff game in 10 years.

"Tonight was one of those games that we have to leave it all out on the court. Wasn't no need to take anything home with us, and we did that," Anthony said. "So I'm pretty sure that we gained a lot of respect from a lot of people right now, but this is the first step of something great."

76ers 86, Heat 82

In Philadelphia, Lou Williams hit a 3-pointer with 8.1 seconds left to lead the Sixers over Miami and avoid a sweep.

Miami was 95 seconds away from winning Game 4, holding an 82-76 lead.

LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the rest of the Heat didn't score again.

Jrue Holiday made a 3 with 46.6 seconds left that sliced the deficit to one. Williams followed with a 3 from the top of the arc for an 84-82 lead that sent the nearly 20,000 fans into a frenzy.

Hawks 88, Magic 85

In Atlanta, Jamal Crawford scored 25 points and Joe Johnson hit four big free throws in the final 20 seconds after Atlanta struggled most of the night at the line, leading the Hawks to a victory over the Magic and a 3-1 lead in theirseries.

The Hawks will try to wrap up the best-of-seven series Tuesday night in Orlando.

Atlanta made only 12 of 20 free throws, but Johnson came through when the Magic were forced to foul. Orlando had a last chance to tie it up, but Al Horford knocked the ball away from Hedo Turkoglu as he tried to get loose for a 3-pointer.

Turkoglu got the ball back with only enough time to force one up. It missed badly, and the Hawks celebrated a commanding lead in the series.

Hornets 93, Lakers 88

In New Orleans, Chris Paul had 27 points, 15 assists and 13 rebounds, and the Hornets held on for a victory over the Lakers to even their series at 2-2.

Wearing a black wrap on his left hand and a small bandage over his right eye, Paul scored 14 of New Orleans' 24 points in the fourth quarter. The All-Star guard then capped his brilliant performance by running down the clock and setting up Jarrett Jack's short jumper, which made it 90-86 with 9.3 seconds left.

Kobe Bryant had 17 points for the Lakers, but did not score in the first half and finished 5 of 18 shooting, his last miss coming on a 3-point attempt in the final seconds.



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