Carmelo Anthony frowns in defeat as Rajon Rondo and Delonte West celebrate a 96-93 Celtics Game 2 victory in Boston on Tuesday night.
Making up for the absence of Amar'e Stoudemire and Chauncey Billups with a 42-point, 17-rebound performance, Anthony was a veritable He-Man for the Knicks in Game 2, but it wasn't sufficient to take down the defending Eastern Conference champion Boston Celtics in a 96-93 Celtics home victory in the first-round NBA playoffs series.
Anthony did all he could to validate his status as the superstar franchise player the Knicks so thoroughly coveted at the NBA trade deadline when they dealt nearly half their team to acquire him and Billups from the Denver Nuggets.
With Stoudemire leaving with back spasms after playing 17 minutes and Billups missing the game entirely, the Knicks needed every ounce of juice they could get from the rest of the roster. Players like Roger Mason Jr., Jared Jeffries and Toney Douglas hit big shots, but Anthony scored consistently and relentlessly in a 14-for-30 shooting performance.
'Melo was a threat from just about everywhere, scoring from all over the floor and sticking his nose where it didn't belong to grab a playoff-career-high 17 boards. Whether it was in the post, atop the key, from behind the arc (4-for-8 on treys) or at the free-throw line (10-for-11 at the stripe), Anthony found ways to get and make good shots.
In other words, it was the Carmelo Anthony show at the Boston Garden.
But it wasn't enough.
Rajon Rondo put on a show of his own with 30 points on 13-of-23 shooting to go with seven assists and two steals, and the Celtics' depth and home-court advantage proved to be too much for Anthony's Knicks.
Paul Pierce scored 20, Ray Allen 18 and Kevin Garnett 12, including a go-ahead hook shot in the paint with 14 seconds left that proved to be the difference.
The win gave the Celtics a 2-0 series lead heading into Game 3 at New York's Madison Square Garden on Friday night.
On one hand, Knicks fans should be concerned with their team dealing with two injured stars while trailing two games to none in the seven-game series, but the other palm foretells heroics from Anthony that could mount a comeback with home court and better health on New York's side in these NBA playoffs.
If Carmelo Anthony stays this hot and Amar'e Stoudemire can get his back in order, we may be in for a series after all.