Carmelo Anthony scored 21 points and the New York Knicks held on after blowing most of a 26-point lead to beat the Boston Celtics, 88-80, 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 were hoping to become the first NBA team to advance in the playoffs after losing the first three games.
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. They will open the second round Sunday at home against the Indiana Pacers.
Paul Pierce scored 14 points on 4-for-18 shooting, making one of nine 3-point attempts. 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.
THUNDER 103, ROCKETS 94: Kevin Durant scored 27 points and Kevin Martin added 25 to lead Oklahoma City over Houston, sending the Thunder to the second round of the playoffs for the third straight season. The Rockets were looking to become just the fourth team in NBA history to force a Game 7 after trailing 3-0. But the top-seeded Thunder opened the fourth quarter with a big run to take the lead and cruised to the victory. Martin finally gave the Thunder someone to take scoring pressure off Durant for the first time since All-Star Russell Westbrook had season-ending knee surgery. He had 21 points by halftime and Westbrook’s replacement, Reggie Jackson helped out by scoring 17. James Harden led Houston with 26 points.
PACERS 81, HAWKS 73: George Hill and David West each scored 21 points and Indiana withstood a furious Atlanta comeback in the fourth quarter, closing out the opening-round playoff series in Game 6. 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.
GRIZZLIES 118, CLIPPERS 105: Mike Conley and Zach Randolph scored 23 points apiece, and Memphis beat Los Angeles to take the first-round series 4-2 and advance to its second Western Conference semifinals in three seasons. The Grizzlies had never won four straight postseason games before this series, and they became only the 10th team in NBA history to win four straight after trailing 0-2. They will open the second round at Oklahoma City on Sunday. Memphis finished with seven players in double figures. Tony Allen had a postseason-best 19 points, and Jerryd Bayless had 16. Reserve Matt Barnes scored a career playoff-best 30 points for Los Angeles. Chris Paul had 28 points before being ejected with 2:29 left for crashing into Marc Gasol off a missed free throw, though he shook hands with several Grizzlies before going to the locker room.