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Not even a return home could provide a spark for the Boston Celtics.BOSTON -- Rapid reaction after the New York Knicks defeated the Boston Celtics 90-76 during Game 3 of an Eastern Conference first-round series at TD Garden. Knicks lead the series, 3-0.
THE NITTY GRITTY
Go ahead and pick your favorite adjective: Pathetic, unsightly, embarrassing? They all work to describe Boston's effort in this one. A so-called "desperate" Celtics team, its season hanging in the balance, shot 35 percent (14 of 40 overall) while mustering a measly 31 first-half points, barely an upgrade over its 49 points worth of total second-half output in the first two games of the series. Jeff Green scored a team-high 21 points on 8-of-17 shooting with nine rebounds, while Kevin Garnett added 12 points and 17 rebounds. Paul Pierce labored through 6-of-15 shooting with five turnovers (Green had the same number of giveaways) for 17 points over 41 minutes. Not even a new-look starting unit with Jason Terry (14 points) was able to wake Boston from its postseason slumber. Carmelo Anthony scored a game-high 26 points on 12-of-25 shooting while Raymond Felton continued to toy with Boston, putting up 15 points and 10 assists. JR Smith added 15 points before getting ejected in the fourth quarter (more on that below).
It was a one-possession game early in the second quarter before the Knicks embarked on an 8-0 run highlighted by 3-pointers from Pablo Prigioni and Smith (with a Kenyon Martin layup in between). Later in the frame, with Boston's offense sputtering, the Knicks put together an 11-0 burst that featured three straight buckets from Anthony before a Felton 3-pointer pushed the lead to 18 (47-29) with under a minute to play in the half. Boston was booed as it left the court at the intermission.
SMITH EJECTED FOR FLAGRANT-2
Smith floored Terry with an elbow with 7:06 to play in the fourth quarter and was ejected after the foul was classified a flagrant-2. Celtics coach Doc Rivers prevented a potential confrontation, stepping in front of an enraged Terry and bearhugging him as Smith walked away. With the game out of reach, the refs made the easy decision to maintain the flagrant-2 classification (which comes with automatic ejection). At least Game 4 will have one intriguing storyline.
Some of the only cheers from Celtics fans in the second half came when a trio of Knicks fans were booted from the arena early in the fourth quarter. One New York fan in an Anthony jersey blew kisses to the Boston fans applauding his departure. You can do that when your team is up 20 points and about to put a stranglehold on the series.
WHAT IT MEANS
Unless the Celtics plan on making some history (someone get Kevin Millar on the phone!), this series is over as early as Sunday's Game 4 at the Garden (and probably no later than Tuesday's Game 5 in New York if Boston somehow musters the pride to keep its season going). Friday was just an embarrassing effort for a team that pledged to show signs of desperation after two uninspired second-half efforts in New York. Playing their first game at TD Garden in 16 days and in the aftermath of the marathon bombings, the Celtics rarely showed any fight -- something that's dogged them this entire series when adversity bubbles up. There's at least 48 minutes of basketball left in the season, but it's likely the offseason chatter will start to dominate the conversation after a disappointing, injury-plagued 2012-13 season sits on the brink.