BOSTON -- The Knicks are one win away from accomplishing something they haven't in more than a decade: winning a playoff series.
The Knicks rode 26 points by Carmelo Anthony and delivered a 90-76 victory over the Celtics in Game 3 Friday night at TD Garden, taking a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. No team in NBA history has come back from that deficit.
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The victory brings the Knicks one step closer to winning a playoff series for the first time since the 1999-2000 season and puts them on the verge of settling a score with an old foe.
Two years ago, in Anthony's first season with the Knicks, the Celtics swept them in the first round. Now the Knicks have a chance to return the favor by winning Game 4 Sunday.
And that's definitely on the players' minds.
"To be honest with you, to accomplish that would be spectacular,'' Anthony said. "It would be a dream come true. I've never swept anybody.''
He said before the game that getting swept by the Celtics two years ago left "a bitter taste,'' and he added, "I remember that.''
Tempers started to flare late in the game. J.R. Smith (15 points) was ejected after he appeared to intentionally swing his elbow at Jason Terry with 7:06 left. Terry wanted to go right back after Smith but was intercepted by coach Doc Rivers, who defused a potentially ugly situation.
Coach Mike Woodson said he told his players after the game to stay "humble.''
"You followed the game plan and it worked,'' Woodson told his players. "We've got a day to sleep on it and then get ready for Sunday's game. We've got to treat it just like we did tonight.''
During the first two games, the Knicks rebounded from halftime deficits with strong second halves. The goal for Game 3 on the road was to play more of a complete game, and they accomplished that.
The Knicks grabbed the lead early -- 3-2 on a three-pointer by Pablo Prigioni -- and never relinquished it thanks to their at-times relentless defense. By allowing only 31 points in the first half, the Knicks held the Celtics to 54 points in four consecutive quarters dating to the second half of Game 2.
"We tried to make it a two-half game rather than just the second half like we've been doing the first two games,'' Anthony said. "We completed the full 48 minutes today.''
Woodson said before the game that he expected the Celtics' emotions to be "sky-high,'' given that they were playing at home and in need of a momentum-shifting win. He stressed the importance of his team taking control of the tempo, and the Knicks did that in an impressive first half.
The turning point came after Paul Pierce missed a three-pointer that would have tied the score at 26 early in the second quarter. The Knicks responded by scoring eight consecutive points, including three-pointers by Prigioni and Smith, to take control.
"On the road, you have to make sure you take their first punch,'' Jason Kidd said, "and we did that.''
Then Anthony got hot late in the second quarter, scoring eight straight points during an 11-2 run that opened a double-digit lead. Rivers said his team "really lost our spirit'' during that run, and the Knicks capitalized by entering halftime up by 16. The closest the Celtics got in the second half was 11 points at 49-38, but the Knicks held firm.
"It feels good to be sitting in this seat, in this situation, to be sitting in the driver's seat,'' Anthony said. "It's just a matter of us doing what we have to do Sunday. We want to close the deal. We want to seal the deal Sunday, no ifs, ands or buts about it.''