Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
BOSTON – The Knicks had the ball right where they wanted it in the final seconds Sunday night.
In Carmelo Anthony’s hands.
Down 87-85 on Ray Allen’s 3-pointer from the left wing with 11.6 seconds left, ‘Melo had a clean look at a 3 of his own that would’ve given the Knicks a 1-point lead with 1.9 ticks on the clock.
“From my vantage point when it left Carmelo’s hands, I was thinking, ‘Wow,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said.
But Anthony misfired off the front rim and the Knicks failed to earn their first postseason victory since April 29, 2001 despite leading by as many as 12 points in the second half.
“We stuck to the game plan [and] for the most part it worked and it came down to that Ray Allen 3,” said Anthony, who finished with 15 points on 5 of 18 shooting. “He made a tough shot. It was a big play.
“I had a chance to make a 3. I missed it.”
Anthony’s first playoff game as a Knick was a bi-polar one.
He committed two fouls in the game’s first 88 seconds and then sat the remainder of the first period, only to return and scored 12 points on 4 of 7 shooting as the Knicks outscored the Celtics, 28-15 in the second quarter to seize a 51-39 halftime lead.
“Billy Walker and Carmelo in the first half, they got every shot they wanted,” Rivers said, referring to Walker’s seven first-half points on 3-of-5 shooting.
While Amar’e Stoudemire heated up and scored 16 of his game-high 28 in the second half, Anthony cooled off.
He managed just three second-half points on 1-of-11 shooting, including the errant 3 at the end.
“They load the paint up,” Anthony said of the Celtics. “Every time I caught it they load the side up and shift the court.
“I’m not concerned with my individual performance. As a team we did a hell of a job competing out there.”
Despite scoring on four straight offensive possessions in the fourth quarter and later adding an emphatic dunk to put the Knicks up 82-78 with 2:40 remaining, Stoudemire didn’t shoot again down the stretch. He said Kevin Garnett denied him the post entry pass during the final four or five possessions of the game.
“I think we was doing everything in our power to get Amar’e the ball,” Anthony said. “He had it going. ..tonight was his night. We tried to go to him. Toward the end the Celtics made some adjustments. Whenever he has it going like that, he’s the guy we want to go to.”
Perhaps equally as important as his lack of second-half offensive production, Anthony was whistled for his fifth foul when he gave Paul Pierce a forearm shove with the Knicks up 85-84 and 37.3 seconds remaining.
The Knicks failed to score after the play and Allen won the game with a dramatic 3-pointer off a pass from Pierce.
As would be expected, the Knicks and Celtics had different interpretations of the call.
“As far as that offensive foul goes, what I thought and what they called were two different things,” Anthony said. “It is what it is. They called it and it’s over with.”
“I thought it was a tough call,” Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni said.
Rivers, obviously, had a different interpretation.
“I don’t know if [Pierce] drew it but he took it,” Rivers said. “It was the right call. Heck of a call to make, but it was the right call.”
Rivers credited Pierce with making the pass that led to Allen’s game-winner.
“Ray’s a hero with the shot,” he said. “To me, Paul’s a hero with the pass.”
Despite the difficult ending and the knee injury to point guard Chauncey Billups, whose status remains uncertain for Game 2, Anthony said he and his teammates were looking forward to Tuesday.
“It’s not like guys’ heads are down,” Anthony said. “Guys are excited about Game 2.”
(Photo courtesy Daily News)
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.