NEW YORK — Carmelo Anthony started fast, struggled through the middle, and finished with a flurry.
And the New York Knicks, after knocking the Boston Celtics from the top of the Atlantic Division, took the first step toward knocking them out of the playoffs.
Anthony scored 36 points, leading the Knicks to an 85-78 victory Saturday in their playoff opener.
“It’s a wonderful feeling to know that we got our first win of the series here on our home court, took care of that business,” Anthony said. “It was real important for us to come out and get this first win.”
The NBA’s scoring leader had 10 quick points and endured a tough shooting night from there before scoring eight points in the fourth quarter, helping New York take a 1-0 lead in a series for the first time since the 2001 first round against Toronto.
“Boston knows Melo and they know he’s not going anywhere, but they’re going to make it as tough as possible for him to score the ball,” Knicks coach Mike Woodson said. “And he got off to a good start and then he had that slow middle, and then when he had to pick it up down the stretch, he made the plays that we needed him to make. And I mean that’s what the great ones do. They figure it out and Melo’s done that all season for our ballclub.”
Anthony shot only 13 for 29 from the field but made consecutive baskets late in the final period, when the Knicks held Boston to three baskets and eight points.
Game 2 is Tuesday night before the Celtics host Game 3 on Friday in what will be their first home game since the Boston Marathon bombings.
Jeff Green scored 26 points and Paul Pierce added 21 for the Celtics, who badly missed injured point guard Rajon Rondo, committing 21 turnovers that led to 20 points. The Knicks got their hands on the ball at will in the fourth quarter, when Boston shot 3 of 11.
“We had some just bad turnovers tonight,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “If we had those turnovers in any game we probably should lose the game and we did. We were making post passes from the other side of the floor. I mean, those are just not good passes.”
Kevin Garnett had eight points and nine rebounds but shot only 4 of 12 from the field. Jason Terry, another veteran on a young Celtics team, missed all five shots off the bench.
The Celtics led after three quarters and tied the game for the final time at 72 on Garnett’s basket with 8:13 remaining. Anthony then made consecutive jumpers, and after the Celtics got back within three later in the period, he made a layup and a long jumper that gave New York an 83-76 advantage with 1:21 left.
Green made two free throws and the Celtics double-teamed Anthony, but he fired a pass to a wide-open Kenyon Martin under the basket to put it away with 40 seconds left.
“We just panicked a little bit. We don’t have to do that,” Celtics guard Avery Bradley said. “We have to keep our composure and play the right way. We didn’t.”