With the Knicks out front by a point with 21 seconds to go, Pierce got tangled with Anthony as the New York swingman attempted to establish position to receive a pass. Referees tagged Anthony with his fifth foul, an eyebrow-raising call at the late-game stage, and Ray Allen drilled the decisive 3-pointer at the other end off a Pierce feed.
"I don’t know if he drew it, but he took it," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said of Pierce's role on Anthony's offensive infraction. "And it was the right call. Heck of a call to make, but it was the right call. I mean, it was clear. And I give Paul a lot of credit. I give Paul credit in the second half -- Billy Walker and Carmelo in the first half, they got every shot, everything they wanted. In the second half, it went away. And I thought it was due to Paul.”
Over in the visitors' locker room, the Knicks weren't so sure it was an obvious offensive foul call.
“Well, in my eyes, obviously I’m biased, but I thought it was a tough call," Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni said, going on to comment on the Kevin Garnett screen that helped free Ray Allen for the winning shot with 11.6 seconds to play. "And I thought the [no] call [when] Toney [Douglas] went flying trying to chase Ray Allen was a tough no-call. Those things happen. I’m not happy about it, but it happens."
Anthony expressed frustration over the call and downplayed Pierce's impact in shutting him down in the second half.
"As far as that offensive foul goes, what I thought and what they called were two different things," Anthony said. "So it is what it is, he called it and it’s over with.
"As far as Paul Pierce, the matchup, I don’t think he did anything out of the ordinary or special tonight as far as defending me. I think the Celtics, they was themselves, they load the paint up. Every time I caught it, they loaded the side up, they shifted court. I missed some shots I normally make. I’m not too concerned about my individual performance or anything like that."
Pierce finished with 6-of-16 shooting with 18 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, a steal and 4 turnovers over 39:21. Anthony overcame constant foul trouble to chip in 15 points on 5-of-18 shooting with 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals and 5 turnovers (maybe none as important as the late-game offensive foul) over 33:39.
The big difference? Anthony finished with only three points in the second half on 1-of-11 shooting, missing all five 3-pointers he put up. Pierce chipped in nine points on each side of intermission, generating seven fourth-quarter points and one monster assist in the final frame.
--C'S AVERT DISASTER ON FINAL PLAY OF GAME--
It's such commonplace for the opposing team to call timeout after Ray Allen hits one of his many late-game 3-pointers that it startled the Celtics when New York raced up the court after Allen's go-ahead triple with 11.6 seconds to play.
Rivers was out near midcourt screaming for Rajon Rondo to commit the foul that Boston had to give, while Delonte West was on the floor delivering a celebratory back-bump to Allen. All the while, Anthony was racing up the court for a final isolation play with a chance to win it for the Bockers, all because the Knicks were out of timeouts.
"We were yelling that we had nine guys on the floor. I think I was guarding Carmelo," Rivers joked. "We said [during the previous timeout that the Celtics] had a foul to give if we scored and we wanted them to bring the ball up the court and foul them by half-court. When I saw them pass the ball to Carmelo, I knew we were not going to do it and we didn’t know it any more. And we got away with one. Because, from my vantage point, when it left Carmelo’s hands, I was thinking, ‘Wow.’ But we got away with it."
The Knicks had to burn a couple of timeouts in the second half, including one when Chauncey Billups hobbled off with a left knee strain in the final minute, which left them without a clock-stopper before that final possession (which ended with Anthony misfiring on a potential winning 3-pointer from the right wing).
"I lost one [timeout] because I thought, in the third quarter, it was too much and I didn’t want to let the game get away from us," D'Antoni said. "I took one there. Chauncey gets hurt and I had to take one there. Then I wanted to do a little bit of our defense and offense and get Jared [Jeffries] in there, and blew it. I told them if we got a stop, we didn’t need a timeout, but we obviously [did] with Ray Allen. Having said that, we had an opportunity to score at the end.”
--LAYUP LINE: BILLUPS INJURED; SHAQWATCH; BELICHICK & LAW IN CROWD--
* Billups suffered his left knee strain driving to the basket in the game's final minute and hobbled off. He's hoping to be back on the court for Game 2.
“I went to the basket, and as I took off on my leg it just kind of buckled on me," said Billlups, who missed a layup in a tie game with 59.9 seconds to play. "The doctors and everyone said it’s just a strain in my knee or the quad, the muscle that extends to my knee or whatever. But it’s just a strain, hopefully. They said they’ll check it out [Monday], hopefully I can get back as soon as possible.”
* Speaking of injured veterans, Rivers wouldn't rule out center Shaquille O'Neal for Tuesday's Game 2, but admitted his playing is unlikely. Boston plans to go through a light on-court workout during Monday's offday and, even if Shaq's calf/Achilles did heal enough to get him back on the court, it might not be enough to thrust him back into game action. "Basically, he's day-to-day," Rivers said. "And we’ll just see."
Breaking from his late-season routine of remaining behind the scenes (or out of the arena), O'Neal, clad in all black, sat at the end of the Boston bench during Sunday's Game 1 (fellow inactives Calros Arroyo and Avery Bradley stayed in the locker room, as is typical lately with Boston's healthy scratches).
* Patriots coach Bill Belichick, resplendent in a salmon shirt with a vest and visor, sat courtside opposite the Boston bench with girlfriend Linda Holliday for the playoff opener (hey, he's got free time on his hands). Belichick got a couple of (heavily cheered) JumboTron appearances, including when a fan dressed in a full Tom Brady uniform (replete with long flowing hair), danced (with football motions) to Sugar Hill Gang's "Apache."
* Speaking of (ex) Patriots, cornerback Ty Law sat on the baseline and got plucked from the crowd to help mascot Lucky with his trademark flip-slam before the start of the fourth quarter.