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'Melo delivers for Knicks in opener

Dec 26, 2011 - 1:31 AM New York, NY (Sports Network) - Merry Christmas, New York.

Carmelo Anthony scored 17 fourth-quarter points and knocked down a pair of free throws with 16.3 seconds remaining, lifting the Knicks to a 106-104 season-opening win over the rival Celtics.

The Knicks blew an early 17-point lead and trailed 87-79 entering the fourth. But Anthony scored his team's first seven points of the quarter, and hit a game-tying trey with three minutes remaining, triggering a back-and-forth finish. He ended with 37 points, while Amar'e Stoudemire added 21 and Toney Douglas had 19.

Key offseason acquisition Tyson Chandler had seven points and six blocks for New York, which halted an eight-game slide against the Celtics, including a four-game sweep in the opening round of last year's playoffs.

The Celtics, without Paul Pierce, were carried by Rajon Rondo's 31 points and 13 assists. Brandon Bass, acquired from the Magic during the offseason, added 20 points and 11 boards. Ray Allen also scored 20 and Kevin Garnett chipped in 15.

"It was a classic Knicks-Celtics game," Garnett said. "We fought for 48 minutes, but came up short."

Pierce, listed as day-to-day with a bone bruise in his heel, left the four- time defending Atlantic Division champs thin at the small forward spot. They were also without Jeff Green, who is set to miss the entire season due to an aortic aneurysm.

Anthony took advantage.

He missed the majority of the third quarter due to foul trouble, and the Celtics erased a 62-52 halftime deficit behind the play of Rondo and Bass, utilizing a 22-2 run to grab a 77-69 lead with six minutes left in the quarter. Bass was particularly strong during the C's run, scoring eight points and grabbing four offensive rebounds in the third quarter alone.

But Anthony re-established his presence, knocking down a 24-footer to open the fourth and later nailing a trey to tie the game, 100-100. He scored his team's final five points, and hit two free throws after a Marquis Daniels' reach-in to account for the final margin. Garnett missed a 14-footer on the other end as time expired.

"We came together as a team even when we got down," Anthony said. "We willed our way to this win."

The Celtics were certainly hurt by Pierce's absence. They shot just 35.7 percent in the opening quarter, showing signs of rust following a brief two- game preseason -- a byproduct of the NBA's five-month labor dispute which ended December 8.

Rondo did his best to compensate. He went 11-of-19 from the field and consistently penetrated the Knicks' sometimes porous defense -- a point of offseason concern which led to the acquisition of Chandler from the defending NBA champion Mavericks.

His play also called attention to the Knicks' shaky point guard situation. They waived veteran Chauncey Billups during the shortened offseason, bringing in fellow vets Mike Bibby and Baron Davis, both of whom didn't play due to injury. Douglas got the start and went 8-of-19 from the floor but just 2-of-6 from downtown.

Rookie Iman Shumpert -- the 17th overall pick -- scored 11 points in 22 minutes for the Knicks, but left in the third quarter with a sprained MCL in his right knee. He's expected to be out 2-to-4 weeks.

Game Notes

The NBA lockout began July 1 and officially ended on December 8, when players and owners agreed to a new 10-year collective bargaining agreement..The result: a shortened, 66-game regular season...Bass was acquired from Orlando in exchange for Glen Davis and Von Wafer...Baron Davis is expected to miss 4- to-6 weeks due to a herniated disc in his back and Bibby is suffering from back spasms -- he dressed but didn't play.

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