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July 23, 2017

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Knicks beat Celtics to take big series lead

BOSTON, Massachusetts--The New York Knicks spoiled the Boston Celtics' homecoming on Friday, cruising to a 90-76 victory for a commanding 3-0 lead in their NBA Eastern Conference first-round playoff series.

Carmelo Anthony scored 26 points for the Knicks, which moved within one game of notching its first playoff series victory since the 1999-2000 season.

For the Celtics the outlook is bleak. No team has ever come back from an 0-3 deficit to win a best-of-seven NBA post-season series.

Knowing that the Celtics could ride the emotion of the fans in their first home game since the April 15 Boston marathon bombings, the Knicks moved fast to gain the upper hand and quiet the crowd.

New York led by 16 points at halftime and were never seriously challenged after the break.

"I thought we lost our spirit," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said.

Raymond Felton added 15 points and 10 assists for the Knicks, who are now on the brink of avenging a first-round loss to the Celtics two years ago — in Anthony's first season in New York.

"Any time you get swept, that's a bitter taste," Anthony said of that four-game series defeat. "We remember that."

Perhaps that was a contributing factor when the game turned testy in the fourth quarter, with New York's J.R. Smith elbowing Boston's Jason Terry in the face with 7:06 remaining, and with New York holding a comfortable lead.

Smith was ejected and could face a suspension, while Boston coach Doc Rivers held on to Terry to prevent the incident from escalating.

Knicks coach Mike Woodson had predicted the Celtics' emotions would be "sky-high" as they returned home, stressing the importance of taking control early.

The NBA canceled the final regular-season game of the Celtics on the day after the bombings that killed three and injured 264 near the Boston marathon finish line.

On Friday the Celtics followed other Boston sports franchises in remembering the victims and honoring the emergency personnel who helped them.

But once the moment of silence, national anthem and a rousing ovation for the honored first responders was over, the Knicks got down to business.

Boston's Paul Pierce had a chance to tie the score at 26-26 early in the second quarter but missed a three-pointer. The Knicks then scored eight straight points to take control.

New York played suffocating defense in the first half, forcing eight turnovers that led to 14 Knicks points. Boston's 18 turnovers overall led to 26 Knicks points.

New York will try to complete the sweep on Boston's court on Sunday.

"It feels good to be sitting in this seat, in this situation, to be sitting in the driver's seat," Anthony said. "It's just a matter of us doing what we have to do Sunday. We want to close the deal."

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