The New York Knicks cruised past the Boston Celtics 90-76 thanks to another big scoring night from Carmelo Anthony and stifling defense, and are now poised to win their first playoff series in 13 years.
The victory Friday night at the TD Garden in Boston gave the Knicks a 3-0 series lead in a match-up that was expected to be one of the most hotly contested of the first round.
Anthony scored 26 points, while point guard Raymond Felton and reserve swingman J.R. Smith added 15 points each.
Pablo Prigioni also played a key role, connecting on three 3-pointers during a stretch of the first half when the Knicks took the lead for good.
But it was the Knicks' defense that was the biggest factor against the Celtics, who struggled once again to get any flow going on offense without injured point guard Rajon Rondo.
The only blot on the night for the Knicks came in the fourth quarter, when Smith picked up a flagrant foul and was ejected from the game for elbowing Celtics' guard Jason Terry in the face.
The NBA will review the play and could fine Smith or suspend him for a game.
Terry tried to confront Smith, who immediately began walking to the other end of the floor after the elbow, but was stopped by Celtics' head coach Doc Rivers.
The Knicks' coach, Mike Woodson, was visibly disappointed in Smith, recipient of this season's Sixth Man of the Year Award, for his reaction to Terry's tight man-to-man defense.
Jeff Green led the way for the Celtics with 21 points, nine rebounds and four assists. Paul Pierce added 17 points but shot an inefficient 6-of-15 from the field, while Kevin Garnett scored 12 points on 5-of-13 shooting and grabbed 17 rebounds.
Point guard Avery Bradley, who replaced Rondo after the latter suffered a season-ending knee injury on Jan. 25, was virtually invisible on offense, scoring just two points and not recording a single assist.
During a ceremony after the first quarter, the Celtics' fans cheered the first responders in the deadly April 15 bomb blasts at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. But soon afterward they were cascading boos on the home team for their poor performance.
The win left the Knicks one win away from their first playoff series win since 2000, when they reached the Eastern Conference Finals, and their first playoff sweep since 1999, when they blanked the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Game 4 of the series will be played on Sunday, also in Boston.
In other action Friday night in the NBA Playoffs, the San Antonio Spurs pounded the injury-depleted Los Angeles Lakers 120-89 to take a 3-0 lead.
The Golden State Warriors, meanwhile, showed resilience despite the loss of injured power forward David Lee, outgunning the Denver Nuggets 110-108 behind 29 points from Stephen Curry to grab a 2-1 series advantage. EFE