Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks made life miserable for Paul Pierce all night. (AP)
History will have to wait.
Despite one of the most furious comebacks in NBA playoff history, the Celtics season came to an end Friday night with a 88-80 loss to the Knicks in Game 6 at a wild TD Garden. Boston used a 20-0 run over a four-minute span midway through the fourth quarter to cut a 26-point hole down to six and eventually cut it to four before the Knicks held on for dear life.
Iman Shumpert and Pablo Prigioni hit seven of their first nine attempts from 3-point range and combined for 27 points as the Knicks ended Boston’s hopes of becoming the first team in NBA history to overcome a 3-0 series deficit.
The Knicks hit eight of their first 15 3-point attempts and turned 20 Boston turnovers into 17 points as New York clinched their first playoff series win since 2000.
The ice-cold Celtics lost in the first round for the first time since 2005, when they fell in seven games to the Pacers. In repeat of their offensive woes for most of the series, Boston scored just 27 points in the first half.
Paul Pierce shot just 4-of-18 from the field and finished with just 14 points. Kevin Garnett led Boston with 15 points and 10 rebounds while Jeff Green was the leading scorer with 21.
The Celtics pulled out all of the cards in their final home game of the season, including playing a video montage of the Red Sox comeback from 3-0 down in the 2004 ALCS against the Yankees before the tip.
In a repeat of Game 5 in New York on Wednesday night, the Celtics got off to a very cold start. New York raced out to a 21-5 lead in the first quarter as Pablo Prigioni hit three 3-pointers. Unlike Game 5, the Celtics couldn’t immediately work their way back into the game as they started out missing 11 of their first 14 shots and finished the first quarter trailing 24-10, while shooting just 4-for-16 from the field.
No one on the Celtics struggled more than their captain. Pierce finished the first half making just one of 10 shots while missing all five from 3-point range after going 4-for-8 from long distance in Game 5. The Knicks built their lead to 18 twice in the second quarter before the Celtics answered with a 10-0 run that included consecutive threes from Jeff Green and Jason Terry, getting the Garden crowd into the game for the first time.
Carmelo Anthony carried the Knicks offensively in the first half, scoring 14 points, including a key three-point play with just 4.5 seconds left before halftime that gave New York a 39-27 halftime lead. Anthony finished with 21 points.
Garnett hit a jumper to start the third quarter to cut the deficit to 10 but Prigioni fed Tyson Chandler for a slam dunk. That was followed by a Prigioni reverse layup and a Raymond Felton jumper and New York had a 45-29 lead. After Bass hit one of two free throws, Prigioni answered with his fifth 3-pointer with 8:56 and the Knicks matched their biggest lead, 50-32.
The Celtics made another run, outscoring New York 10-3 and cutting the deficit down to 11 on a Garnett layup with 6:12 left in the third. Terry’s three with 4:38 cut the deficit to 10, 55-45. That was followed by a turnover and a technical on Felton. But Jason Terry missed the free throw. Felton and Iman Shumpert hit back-to-back threes in a 30-second span as the Knicks built their lead back to 16, 61-45.
Shumpert hit his third three in as many tries with 41.6 seconds left in the third to give the Knicks their biggest lead, 67-47.
J.R. Smith hit a jumper 20 seconds into the fourth and the Knicks led, 69-47. The Knicks built their lead up to 26, 75-49, before the Celtics went on an 11-0 run to cut the lead down to 15 with 7:25 left. Pierce’s three with 7:15 cut the lead down to 12. Two Avery Bradley free throws with 6:39 left made it a seven-point game. Jeff Green hit one of two free throws to make it a 20-0 run and cut the lead to six, 75-69.
Shumpert picked off a bad Pierce pass and converted a layup with 5:06 left to end the 20-0 run and put New York up, 77-69. But Avery Bradley converted a layup with 4:40 left and Jeff Green hit two free throws with 4:06 left and the Celtics were down just four. Jason Kidd was on the Nets team in 2002 that blew a 21-point fourth quarter lead in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals.
With 3:50 left, Carmelo Anthony drove the lane and drew a foul. His two free throws put the Knicks up six. With 3:11 left Bradley picked off an Anthony pass and drove in for a dunk and the Celtics were down 79-75. But Anthony responded with a 12-foot turnaround jumper to make it 81-75 with 3:10 left. Green missed a jumper and the Knicks took possession.
Anthony’s 3-pointer with 1:43 left put New York up nine, 84-75. Smith followed with a layup and a free throw with 1:21 left to complete the three-point play and give New York an 87-75 lead and the breathing room they needed. Terry hit a three with 1:17 left to cut the deficit down to nine, 87-78.
Pierce came out of the game with 27.3 seconds left as the Celtics’ captain watched the season end from the bench. Garnett came out with 18 seconds left and gave Doc Rivers a hug.
For complete coverage from Mike Petraglia and Ben Rohrbach from the Garden visit the Celtics team page at weei.com/celtics.