BOSTON — The New York Knicks quieted the crowd and kept the Boston Celtics silent.
Now only the greatest collapse in NBA history would prevent them from reaching the second round again.
Carmelo Anthony scored 26 points and the Knicks moved to the brink of their first playoff series victory in 13 years, routing the Celtics 90-76 on Friday night in Game 3 of the first-round series.
Quickly taking the crowd out of it in the first NBA game here since the Boston Marathon bombings, the Knicks built a 16-point halftime lead and now are on the verge of taking out the Celtics.
"That first quarter on the road, you've got to make sure you take that first punch and we did that," Knicks veteran Jason Kidd said.
Raymond Felton added 15 points and 10 assists for the Knicks, who haven't advanced in the playoffs since reaching the 2000 Eastern Conference finals. They will go for the sweep here Sunday afternoon.
They'll have to hope they have J.R. Smith, who inexplicably threw an elbow right into Jason Terry's face with 7:06 left and was thrown out of the game with a flagrant foul 2, an automatic ejection. The league office will review the play and can fine or suspend Smith.
Jeff Green scored 21 points for the Celtics, who will try to become the first NBA team to win a series after trailing 3-0. They own the most titles in league history, but their present looks extremely bleak.
Fans cheered the responders who helped after the marathon but booed the Celtics, who managed only 31 points in the first two quarters, getting their bad half out of the way early this time. They had been held to 25 and 23 points after halftime while dropping the two games in New York.
Smith finished with 15 points for the Knicks, who are loaded with veterans who've had playoff success the franchise hadn't in recent years and weren't fazed by the pregame atmosphere. Once the game started, they simply outplayed the Celtics, as they have while going 6-1 against them dating the regular season.
"I didn't think we showed up not to play well," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "I thought overall our effort was there, I thought we did lose our spirit early on."
Everything went perfectly for the Knicks until Smith, while holding the ball on offense with a huge lead, decided to throw his elbow right into Terry's face. Terry charged after him but was stopped by Rivers, while Knicks coach Mike Woodson appeared to be lecturing Smith before the Sixth Man of the Year was sent off.
"He'll learn from it. I don't think he was trying to hurt the kid, I thought he was trying to clear space, but hey, they saw it differently," Woodson said. "I'm going to stay in his ear and make sure he learns from it."
There was a moment of silence before the game for the victims, and that was the last time it was quiet for a while. First responders and other personnel were greeted with loud cheers as they were brought onto the floor during timeouts, and a tribute to the city's strength played on the overhead video board during a first-quarter stoppage.
But the Knicks' dominance wore down even the most spirited supporters, just the way LeBron James did in his 45-point performance in Game 6 of last year's Eastern Conference finals in the last playoff game here.
Rivers said he was aware of some of his team's shortcomings, with the absence of Rajon Rondo leaving the Celtics without a point guard. But Rivers — himself a former point guard — couldn't have imagined his team would be this unable to get into an offense, finishing with 18 turnovers that led to 26 Knicks points.
He started Terry for forward Brandon Bass, trying to find a way to get another ball handler on the floor. But it couldn't fix the Celtics' shooting and didn't really help much with the ball handling, as Terry had his dribble taken right away from him on one third-quarter possession when Boston briefly looked ready to get back into it.
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