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Knicks dropped the ball

Anthony carried them to bitter end

By Mark Blaudschun
Globe Staff / April 20, 2011

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Maybe he should have tried to do it all. Rebound, play defense, make clutch shots, dish off, maybe even pass out towels during timeouts. But Carmelo Anthony didn’t do what had to be done in the final seconds of last night’s Eastern Conference playoff game against the Celtics at TD Garden. And it cost the Knicks, who dropped to 0-2 in the series following a 96-93 loss to the Celtics.

It was, after all, an unselfish move by a double-teamed Anthony to dish the ball to an open teammate closer to the basket with 4.4 seconds remaining and the Knicks down by a point.

Until that point it seemed Anthony’s role was going to be that of hero for carrying a Knicks team that was minus guard Chauncey Billups (strained left knee) from the start and Amar’e Stoudemire (back spasms) in the second half.

But Anthony’s remarkable 42-point, 17-rebound, 6-assist effort was not enough to prevent the Knicks from leaving Boston without a win they very much wanted.

“What it means, is that they held home-court advantage,’’ said reserve forward Jared Jeffries, who received the pass from Anthony in the final seconds but was stripped Kevin Garnett. “Now we have to go back home and do the same. We made a lot of mistakes out there tonight. They made a lot of mistakes, too, but they won both games.’’

In the Knicks’ loss Sunday night, they lost Billups, one of their clutch players. Last night, Stoudemire was knocked out after only 17:39 of playing time and 4 points with back spasms that kept getting worse.

“It just never felt right,’’ said Stoudemire, who said he will spend the next two days taking treatment to get ready for Game 3 Friday night. “I believed it happened in warm-ups. I touched the top of the glass with my left hand and dunked it with my right. I think that’s when I felt it really get tight on me. I tried to play through it. I played the first and second quarter, after that it was a sharp pain and I couldn’t continue. Hopefully in the next few days [the back] will release.’’

With two starters out, Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni mixed and matched his bench to counter scoring surges by the Celtics.

“I’m proud of them,’’ said D’Antoni. “We’re still confident. Again, as everybody says, ‘It doesn’t start until somebody wins at the other guy’s court.’ We’ve got to go Friday and I’m sure it’s going to be a great atmosphere. Amar’e should be ready and that right there is going to be all out. I can’t wait until Friday.’’

“We have some depth,’’ said guard Roger Mason, who played 18 minutes after sitting out Game 1. “We really didn’t lose any advantage here. They had the home court and they still have it. What this means simply is that we have to win the next game.’’

Guard Toney Douglas, who replaced Billups and had a credible 14-point, 7-rebound, 2-assist, 2-steal effort, remained optimistic.

“We have to finish better,’’ said Douglas, referring to the two losses that came in the final seconds. “We gave a good effort. This series is not over. We still have got two games left.’’

Unless something changes dramatically at the end, two games might be all that remains in the Knicks’ season.

Mark Blaudschun can be reached at blaudschun@globe.com.

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