Celtics eliminated from playoffs as comeback falls short

BOSTON — The Celtics were so far away before they got so close. But they didn’t get close enough.

The Knicks held off a crazy Celtics fourth-quarter run and eliminated them from the playoffs with a 88-80 win.

Everything that Boston couldn’t do for over three quarters, they started to do with just under 10 minutes left in the 4th quarter. That’s when a 75-49 Knicks lead turned into a 75-69 lead with 5:43 left. Boston got it as close as four points.

But that would be it.

Like too many other games in their opening playoff series against the Knicks, the Celtics came out flat, and that ultimately led to their exit from the postseason.

The Celtics mustered up just 10 first-quarter points on 25-percent shooting, and trailed the Knicks by 14 points. New York stretched that lead to 18 points in the second quarter before a Celtics run cut it in half temporarily. The Knicks led by 12 at half, 39-27.

Paul Pierce wasn’t right for Boston in Game 6. He’s been a turnover machine all series, and on Friday he couldn’t hit shots either. Pierce shot 4-18 on the night for 14 points. He was 1-10 at halftime. His turnover ended Boston’s 18-0 run in the fourth quarter.

Meanwhile, the Knicks got production from players outside of Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith, and Raymond Felton. Pablo Prigioni and Iman Shunpert came up huge for the Knicks and provided the extra offense needed on nights where Anthony and Smith weren’t hitting from all over. Prigioni finished with 14 points and 5 rebounds while Shumpert scored 17 points and grabbed 5 rebounds.

Kevin Garnett had 15 points and 10 rebounds in the loss.

What they’ll be saying: The game was all but over down 26 points in the fourth quarter, but Boston had one last run in them. It says a lot about this team that they were able to turn a 26-point defecit into a four-point game with plenty of time left on the clock, but it also says a lot about them that they only had 47 points entering the fourth quarter. It’s just been one of those series for the Celtics. They gave New York a scare, but the Knicks proved to be the better team. But beyond this game, the future of the team once again is uncertain. There’s a chance Kevin Garnett retires. There’s a chance the Celtics buy out Paul Pierce, ending his historic run as a Celtic. There will be plenty of speculation leading up to the decisions, and Celtics GM Danny Ainge has some major decisions to make.


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