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Celtics win easily, near sweep of Knicks

NEW YORK -- No fantastic finish needed for the Boston Celtics this time.

They simply spoiled Madison Square Garden's postseason homecoming party right from the start.

Paul Pierce scored 38 points, Ray Allen added 32, and Rajon Rondo had a Celtics' playoff-record 20 assists as Boston beat the New York Knicks, 113-96, on Friday night to take a 3-0 in their first-round playoff series.

Rondo had 15 points and 11 rebounds for the Celtics, who pulled out two close games in Boston but never trailed in this one, dominating the first playoff game at Madison Square Garden in seven years. They will go for the sweep Sunday afternoon, and no NBA team has ever lost a series after winning the first three games.

Boston coach Doc Rivers said he rarely talks to his team about the crowd environment, but the former Knicks player made an exception Friday knowing the stage.

"My main concern is this was not entertainment coming in here. This was a competition and I thought we came with that mentality," Rivers said.

After winning the two games in Boston despite trailing in the final half-minute of both, the Celtics scored the first nine points of this one and never really let it get much closer.


Hawks take the lead

ATLANTA -- Jamal Crawford banked in a three-pointer with 5.7 seconds left to cap a brilliant second half, leading the Atlanta Hawks to an 88-84 victory over the Orlando Magic on Friday night and a 2-1 lead in their Eastern Conference playoff series.

Crawford, who scored 18 of his 23 points after halftime, hit the biggest shot of all. With the shot clock winding down, he put up a jumper over Jameer Nelson that struck high on the backboard and went in.

Game Four is Sunday night.


Lakers in charge

NEW ORLEANS -- Kobe Bryant scored 30 points, Pau Gasol snapped out of his playoff funk with 17 points and 10 rebounds, and the Los Angeles Lakers took control of their first-round playoff series with a 100-86 victory over the New Orleans Hornets.

Andrew Bynum added 14 points and 11 rebounds and Lamar Odom had 13 points for the two-time defending champs, who took the lead for good when Ron Artest made a layup as he was fouled to make it 13-10.

The victory gave the Lakers a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series, with Game Four in New Orleans on Sunday.


Today's games

*The Bulls could finish off a sweep of the Pacers (2:30 p.m., TNT); even though the first three games of the series have been close ones.

*The home teams have won the first three games in the Portland-Dallas series. The Blazers hope the trend continues in Game Four (5 p.m., TNT).

*Memphis got its split in San Antonio. Now the Grizzlies hope to ride its home court to a Game Three win tonight (7:30 p.m., ESPN).

*The Nuggets need to turn their luck around at home tonight when they host Oklahoma City in Game Three (10 p.m., ESPN). The Thunder leads, 2-0.

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