Knicks, Heat seize 2-0 leads in playoff series
NEW YORK - Agence France-Presse
Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade, left, and forward LeBron James laugh as they sit on the bench in the final seconds of Game 2 in their first-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Milwaukee Bucks, Tuesday, April 23, 2013 in Miami. AP photoNew York's Carmelo Anthony and Miami stars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade sparked their teams to NBA playoff triumphs on Tuesday that gave the Knicks and Heat 2-0 Eastern Conference series leads.
Anthony, who shot 3-for-11 in the first half, scored a game-high 34 points to power the host Knicks over Boston 87-71, giving New York a 2-0 lead in their best-of-seven opening round playoff series.
"It was just a tale of two halves," Anthony said. "We just had to find a rhythm, find some shots. In the third quarter we came out very aggressively. We got some stops, and that opened up our offense." And at Miami, Wade scored 21 points while James had 19 points, eight rebounds and six assists to spark the defending NBA champion Heat over Milwaukee 98-86 for a 2-0 lead in their best-of-seven first-round matchup.
The Bucks stayed within reach until a 12-0 Miami run sparked by reserves to open the fourth quarter brought the Heat an 80-65 lead and ended Milwaukee's hopes of an upset of the top overall playoff seeds.
"We put ourselves in position to close the game out," James said. "It's not surprising. That's what our bench brings." Ersan Ilyasova scored 21 points and grabbed six rebounds for Milwaukee, which will host game three on Thursday.
"We can expect an absolute crazy energy from their team," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "We did what we were supposed to do. Now we need to move on." At New York, the Celtics led 48-42 at half-time but the Knicks shot 70.6 percent from the field in the third period and outscored Boston 32-11, holding the visitors to 22.2 percent shooting for the quarter to turn around the game.
"It's our defense that holds us in there and makes us able to do the things we need to do to win games," Knicks coach Mike Woodson said.
"We got relaxed. They had us on our heels and attacking. We turned that around in the second half, finally hit a good offensive spurt in the third quarter, and that gave us the cushion we needed." The Knicks visit Boston for games on Friday and Sunday with a chance to sweep into the second round or find themselves in a level fight.
"We did what we were supposed to do with the home-court advantage," Woodson said. "We've got to now travel to Boston. You've got to go in there and be solid." J.R. Smith, named the NBA's top reserve, added 19 points and Raymond Felton added 16 points and seven rebounds for the Knicks, who Woodson stressed are not a one-man show.
"I have a lot of confidence in Melo and everybody on that team," he said. "Melo has it going right now, but some nights he might struggle and other guys have to step in there." Paul Pierce finished with 18 points, six rebounds and six assists for the Celtics while Kevin Garnett added 12 points and 11 rebounds despite foul trouble. But they never recovered from the third quarter.
"They just attacked us, and we didn't handle it well. We have to do better," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "In the second half they turned it on us and threw a knockout punch, several of them.
"We didn't come out with the same mentality in the second half. I don't know why. I have to find out in the next two days. We can play better, and we have to play better." Rivers said he would not use last week's Boston Marathon bombing tragedy as any sort of motivating tool for his players.
"I won't use that. I don't use tragedy for sports. I don't think it's right," Rivers said. "We want to win for the city but that's not anything I'm going to use. We should want to win because we are players. If we win it would be great for the city." New York's Smith made a nod toward Boston supporters, saying, "I hope it gives fans a chance to get things off their minds for two or three hours."