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What Could Be The Difference In Knicks-Celtics? One Man: Carmelo Anthony

Carmelo Anthony #7 of the Knicks drives to the basket against Paul Pierce #34 of the Boston Celtics. (credit: Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

Carmelo Anthony #7 of the Knicks drives to the basket against Paul Pierce #34 of the Boston Celtics. (credit: Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) — In their best chance to beat Boston this season, the Knicks went to Amar’e Stoudemire for a shot that came just after the buzzer.

The Knicks have another option now — statistically the best one in the NBA.

Carmelo Anthony has long been one of the league’s top closers, one of the reasons New York feels it could be a dangerous underdog when it returns to postseason play this weekend against the Celtics.

“The scary thing of course for Boston is that you’ve got the Carmelo factor at the end of games,” TNT analyst Steve Kerr said. “In the last week … New York just clears out for Carmelo on one side of the court and he scores. So in any close game in the playoffs, I think New York has the best weapon in the entire league if you just need one basket.”

Boston has a top finisher in Paul Pierce, and both he and Kevin Garnett have come into Madison Square Garden in the last two years and knocked down winning shots.

Pierce’s jumper with 0.4 seconds left gave the Celtics a 118-116 lead in their Dec. 15 visit to New York. The Knicks inbounded to Stoudemire, who made what appeared to be a winning 3-pointer, but replays showed it clearly came after the buzzer.

Still, the Knicks might consider looking elsewhere if the situation presents itself again.

Anthony has made 16 go-ahead baskets in the last 10 seconds since 2003, tops in the league, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. He is 19 for 39 (49 percent) on shots that tie or put his team ahead in the final 10 seconds of regulation or overtime, highest percentage among active players who have at least 20 attempts in the regular season during that span.

Yet Anthony said the Knicks shouldn’t just go to him down the stretch. Besides Stoudemire, they also have Chauncey Billups, who didn’t take long to live up to his “Mr. Big Shot” nickname after joining New York, making a go-ahead 3-pointer in a victory at Miami.

“If it’s close, if it’s my time to make a basket or make a play, then I will do that. If it’s Chauncey, if it’s Amar’e, whoever it may be, everybody’s got to be ready to make that play,” Anthony said. “So I don’t think it’s down the stretch get the ball to Melo and let him do something.

“Everybody’s got to step up. Amare, if he has it going and it’s his time to take that shot at the last couple of minutes, then we’re going to him.”

But it would be hard to bypass Anthony after what he’s done in his brief Knicks career. His jumper with less than a second left provided an impressive victory at Memphis in March, and last week he knocked down another go-ahead jumper with 4.9 seconds to go, then blocked Danny Granger’s potential winning attempt in a 110-109 victory at Indiana.

For all the attention on Anthony and Stoudemire, coach Mike D’Antoni said his team’s ability to compete will come down to doing the little things, such as boxing out and getting to loose balls.

“And if we consciously do them, I think we have two guys that can bring it home at the end of games,” D’Antoni said.

New York outplayed the Celtics for nearly 45 minutes in the lone meeting with Anthony, but Boston pulled away at the end for a 96-86 victory. If the Knicks can keep it closer just a little bit longer at some point in the series, it might have a guy who can win it for them.

“New York is going to have to figure out a way to stay in games defensively and just stay close and hope that Carmelo can take over late,” Kerr said.

Will Melo make the difference? Make your prediction in the comments below…

(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)