NEW YORK (CBSNewYork / AP) — The Celtics looked beatable in Boston, and the Knicks thought they could finish the job at home.
But it’s not all bad, according to New York’s superstar duo of Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony.
WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell With Reaction From Knicks Fans
“We achieved our goal of making the postseason,” Stoudemire said. “We wanted to do more, but ‘The Knicks Are Back’ statement is definitely true.”
Kevin Garnett had 26 points and 10 rebounds, Rajon Rondo added 21 points and 12 assists, and Boston swept its way into the Eastern Conference semifinals, holding on for a 101-89 victory over New York on Sunday.
“Tonight was one of those games that we have to leave it all out on the court. Wasn’t no need to take anything home with us, and we did that,” said Anthony. “So I’m pretty sure that we gained a lot of respect from a lot of people right now, but this is the first step of something great.”
LISTEN: Carmelo Anthony after Knicks’ exit from playoffs
It didn’t appear that drought would end when the Celtics needed late shots by Allen and Garnett to win the first two games. But they elevated their play in the first postseason games at Madison Square Garden in seven years, winning both by double digits.
“I see it coming in the next couple years,” Anthony said. “For the most part, just getting here and just trying to bring the hope and faith back to New York, trying to bring New York Knicks basketball back and bring something that (the fans) can look forward to on a year-in year-out basis.”
The Celtics almost faced the same scenario on Sunday, but a Knicks comeback attempt stalled in the final minutes before they were saluted by their orange-clad crowd after delivering the best season in New York in a decade.
“We’re only gonna get better,” Anthony said. “I can’t wait for that. We’ve only been together for two months.”
Anthony had 32 points and nine rebounds, and Stoudemire, who decided to play after his back felt better, finished with 19 points and 12 boards but shot only 5 of 20 from the field.
“It was all heart. He just gave it all. With him and Carmelo going forward, the Knicks are in good shape,” Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni said.
The Knicks shot 34 percent and were quickly dispatched in their first playoff appearance since 2004, when they were also swept in the first round. They haven’t won a playoff game in 10 years.
The Celtics were only 10-11 in their last 21 games of the regular season, struggling to adjust to a changed lineup after trading center Kendrick Perkins to Oklahoma City at the deadline and renewing questions they were too old.
The Knicks believed they could challenge them, but Chauncey Billups was lost for good after straining his left knee in the final minute of Game 1 and Stoudemire was never the same after hurting his back during warmups before Game 2.
Meanwhile, the Celtics got better as the series went along, pulling out two close victories in Boston and saving their best for Madison Square Garden, surrounded in orange as it was finally open for postseason basketball again.
“The one thing they had over us is experience,” Anthony said. “We had two months to figure it out.”
Disappointed in their effort in a blowout loss Friday, the Knicks showed plenty of fight. Anthony knocked Rajon Rondo down for a flagrant foul and Stoudemire was called for a technical after he shoved Delonte West in the back following the Boston guard’s hard foul on Knicks rookie Landry Fields.
But New York, which went 42-40 to end a franchise-worst streak of nine straight losing seasons, simply didn’t have enough to match Boston. But according to Carmelo, watch out for the Knicks in the coming seasons.
“The sky’s the limit,” he said.
Are you bitter over the Knicks’ early exit or are you feeling positive about the franchise’s future? Sound off in the comments below…
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