NEW YORK - (AP) - Kevin Garnett had 26 points and 10 rebounds,Rajon Rondo added 21 points and 12 assists, and the Boston Celticsswept their way into the Eastern Conference semifinals, holding onfor a 101-89 victory over the New York Knicks on Sunday.
Ray Allen and reserve Glen Davis each added 14 points for theCeltics, the first team into the second round after sweeping aseries for the first time since a 3-0 victory over Indiana in 1992,the last series victory for their old Big Three before Larry Birdretired.
They had a 23-point lead cut to four in the fourth quarter, butpulled away again behind Garnett, who scored 20 after halftime.
The current Big Three of Garnett, Allen and Paul Pierce twicewas extended to seven games in the first round, but this one wasfar easier than expected against the injury-weakened Knicks. TheCeltics could now have a week off while they wait for likelysecond-round opponent Miami, which was forced to a fifth gameearlier Sunday after a late rally by Philadelphia.
The Celtics almost faced the same scenario, but a Knickscomeback attempt stalled in the final minutes.
Carmelo Anthony had 32 points and nine rebounds, and AmareStoudemire, who decided to play after his back felt better,finished with 19 points and 12 boards but shot only 5 of 20 fromthe field.
The Knicks shot 34 percent and were quickly dispatched in theirfirst playoff appearance since 2004, when they were also swept inthe first round. They haven't won a playoff game in 10 years.
The Celtics were only 10-11 in their last 21 games of theregular season, struggling to adjust to a changed lineup aftertrading center Kendrick Perkins to Oklahoma City at the deadlineand renewing questions they were too old. The Knicks believed theycould challenge them, but Chauncey Billups was lost for good afterstraining his left knee in the final minute of Game 1 andStoudemire was never the same after hurting his back during warmupsbefore Game 2.
Meanwhile, the Celtics got better as the series went along,pulling out two close victories in Boston and saving their best forMadison Square Garden, surrounded in orange as it was finally openfor postseason basketball again.
But that couldn't shake the Celtics, who held the Knicks tothree field goals in the second quarter to seize control and nowwill look ahead to an expected showdown with the Heat.
Garnett made three straight field goals to make it 70-48 in thethird quarter before the Celtics let the Knicks back into it.Consecutive run-out dunks by Anthony cut it to 14, and New York hadit all the way down to 10 when Shawne Williams' 3-pointer with 36seconds remaining trimmed it to 82-72 after three.
Stoudemire opened the fourth with a basket and Anthony followed,bringing it within six and forcing coach Doc Rivers to put Garnettback into the game. He made a pair of free throws, but baskets byStoudemire and Anthony Carter made it 84-80 with 7:34 to go.
But Boston would never let it get closer and finally put it awaywhen consecutive jumpers by Rondo and Garnett extended it to 95-85with 4:22 to play.
Disappointed in their effort in a blowout loss Friday, theKnicks showed plenty of fight. Anthony knocked Rondo down for aflagrant foul and Stoudemire was called for a technical after heshowed Delonte West in the back following the Boston guard's hardfoul on Knicks rookie Landry Fields.
But New York, which went 42-40 to end a franchise-worst streakof nine straight losing seasons and earn its first playoff berthsince 2004, simply didn't have enough to match Boston, which got 13points from Pierce.
The Celtics led 29-23 after one quarter, when Stoudemire missedall six shots, then took control with their defense and some goodwork by their reserves in the second. An 11-3 burst extended thelead to 17, and it grew to 19 in the final minute on a three-pointplay by Jeff Green, acquired in the Perkins trade.
Stoudemire finally made his first field goal after that and theCeltics brought a 55-38 lead into the half.