NBA: Knicks hold off Celtics to advance, Pacers move on

The New York Knicks turned back a furious late charge by the Boston Celtics on Friday, holding on for an 88-80 victory to reach the second round of the NBA playoffs.

The victory gave the Knicks a four-games-to-two triumph in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference first-round series.

They advanced to a second-round clash with the Indiana Pacers, who downed the Hawks in Atlanta 81-73 to win their series 4-2.

"They stood up and they made big plays they needed to make to get the win. It was a total team effort on our part," said Knicks coach Mike Woodson, whose team will host the Hawks in game one of their series at Madison Square Garden on Sunday.

The Knicks notched their first post-season series win since 2000 -- a run of futility that included four first-round exits in 2001, 2004, 2011 and last year.

They took a 3-0 series lead but failed to close the deal as they lost in the fourth and fifth games, raising the prospect that the Celtics could become the first NBA team to recover from an 0-3 deficit to win a best-of-seven series.

"It was a microcosm of the year," said Boston coach Doc Rivers of his team's ability to extend the series. "I think we've been counted out four or five times this year."

Stung by their last two defeats, the Knicks looked on their way to a blowout victory when they stretched their lead to 26 points in the fourth quarter. But the Celtics stormed back to narrow the gap to as little as four points before New York put it away.

"We set the tone defensively from the start," Woodson said. "Our rotations were right on the money. Everything fell into place and I think we got too comfortable and they made the run. Nothing seemed to go right for us for four or five minutes."

Carmelo Anthony scored 21 points and made two key shots in the waning minutes for the Knicks, who also had 17 points from Iman Shumpert. Pablo Prigion scored 14, making four of his six three-point attempts.

The Knicks led 75-49 with less than 10 minutes to play, but Boston scored 20 points in a row to slice the deficit.

A steal and dunk by Avery Bradley pulled the Celtics within 79-75 with 3:32 remaining.

Anthony responded with a jump shot, and stretched the Knicks' lead back to nine with a three-pointer with 1:21 to play.

Jeff Green scored 21 points before fouling out for Boston, while veteran Kevin Garnett scored 15 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for the Celtics.

In Atlanta, the Pacers became the first team to notch a road win in their first-round series against the Hawks to secure a second-round berth.

George Hill and David West scored 21 points each and Roy Hibbert scored 17 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for Indiana.

The Pacers, who had lost 13 straight games in Atlanta, including the first two of this series, clamped down on defense early and held off the Hawks late.

Al Horford led five Hawks players in double figures with 15 points, while Josh Smith and Devin Harris each added 14 points for Atlanta, but the Hawks connected on a disappointing 33.3 percent from the field and were just 3-of-19 from three-point range.

Atlanta engineered a fourth quarter rally to trim a 19-point deficit to three, but finally couldn't climb out of the hole their early shooting woes had left them in.