Knicks 88, Celtics 80
Carmelo Anthony scored 21 points and the New York Knicks held on after blowing most of a 26-point lead to beat the host Boston Celtics in Game 6 on Friday night and advance in the postseason for the first time since 2000.
Iman Shumpert scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half, when the Celtics cut a 75-49 deficit to four points. But Anthony made a jumper to give New York an 81-75 lead and then sank a 3-pointer, then J.R. Smith converted a three-point play to restore the double-digit lead the Knicks had nursed most of the game.
Jeff Green scored 21 points for the Celtics, who had rallied from a 3-0 deficit in the series and had a chance, at home, to force a decisive seventh game.
No NBA team has advanced in the playoffs after losing the first three games.
Paul Pierce scored 14 points on 4-for-18 shooting, making 1-of-9 3-point attempts. Anthony also struggled from inside and outside the arc, going 7 for 23 from the floor and missing his first five 3-point attempts — that was 20 in a row in the series — before sinking the key basket with 1:43 to go.
The Knicks had not won a playoff series since Patrick Ewing and Latrell Sprewell (and current backup center Marcus Camby) helped them reach the 2000 Eastern Conference finals.
Kevin Garnett had 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Celtics, who now face another offseason of talk whether to break up the aging core that won the franchise’s record 17th NBA title in 2008 and returned to the finals two years later. Reserve Jason Terry scored 14 points — the only points the Celtics got from their bench.
After winning the first three games of the best-of-seven series, the Knicks lost two straight.
But on Friday, Boston quickly fell behind 21-5 and trailed by double digits most of the way. The Knicks made it 75-49 with just under 10 minutes left before the Celtics scored the next 20 points, holding New York scoreless for 4:43 before Pierce threw the ball away and Shumpert took it in for an easy layup that made it 77-69 with 5 minutes left.
Pacers 81, Hawks 73
George Hill and David West each scored 21 points and the Indiana Pacers withstood a furious Atlanta comeback in the fourth quarter, beating the host Hawks to close out the opening-round playoff series four games to two.
The home team had won every game until the Hawks returned to Philips Arena and set a franchise record with just nine points in the second quarter on 1-of-15 shooting. The defense broke down in the third, allowing Hill and West to combine for 22 points, and the Pacers built a 65-50 lead going to the fourth.
The Hawks showed some heart, slicing it to 76-73 on Al Horford’s dunk with 2:13 remaining.
But the comeback fizzled there, and the Pacers advanced to face New York.
The Hawks went through an absolutely brutal stretch from early in the second quarter to nearly midway through the third, in which they did not actually put the ball in the hoop.
In the equivalent of more than a quarter — 15:43 to be exact — Atlanta went 1 of 21 from the field, the only basket awarded to Devin Harris on a goaltending call against Roy Hibbert.
At a time when the Hawks needed one of their best performances of the season, they produced one of their worst.
Now, they face an uncertain future. Atlanta has only three players who are definitely under contract for next season — Horford is the only starter in the group — and it seems likely this will be a much different team next season. Longtime stalwart Josh Smith, an Atlanta native who has played for the team eight season, is among those heading into free agency and seems unlikely to return.