First Order for Knicks Is a Healthy Lineup

Amar’e Stoudemire is probable, Chauncey Billups is doubtful and will try to compensate if one or both are absent from the third game of the team’s first-round series against the .

Coach said he was optimistic that Stoudemire would play. Stoudemire did not attend Thursday’s practice because he was receiving treatment at home in Manhattan for the back spasms that sidelined him for the second half of the 96-93 loss that created the 2-0 crater the Knicks hope to escape. “It just depends on how he moves and how he feels, and when you have a bad back we can’t have him out there at half-speed,” D’Antoni said.

The Knicks will conduct a shootaround Friday morning and again gauge whether Stoudemire and Billups have made progress.

“We’ll see how he feels,” Happy Walters, Stoudemire’s agent, said. “He’s definitely trying. He’s getting treatment around the clock.”

D’Antoni said he was less hopeful about Billups’s availability. Billups attended practice and received treatment, but cast more doubt about his being able to return after straining a tendon in his left knee in the final minute of Game 1. Billups sat out Game 2 and on Wednesday he received a cortisone shot and had blood drained from the knee. On Thursday, he said he was still in pain and limited in movement.

“I gave myself my best chance, so I’m just hoping at this point,” said Billups, who spoke to reporters with the hood on his gray sweatshirt pulled up over his head. “I just want to be able to run around out there a little bit.”

Toney Douglas would start again in Billups’s absence and try to slow Rajon Rondo. If Stoudemire is unable to play, Shawne Williams will replace him in the starting lineup.

Boston holds a two-game series edge with only a 5-point differential. The Knicks can take both comfort and concern from Games 1 and 2. They proved that they could stay close to the Celtics, but have yet to show that they can close out a victory.

Anthony, coming off a masterful 42-point performance in a losing effort in Game 2, described Friday’s game as “a must win for us.” He is probably correct. No team has rallied from a 3-0 deficit to win a playoff series. On Friday, the crowd at Madison Square Garden will hope to see the Knicks’ first playoff win in a decade.

“I’m pretty sure it’ll be crazy,” Anthony said. “I think crazy is an understatement, but that’s the word I’m going to use right now.”

D’Antoni also disclosed that Ronny Turiaf experienced knee pain in the fourth quarter of Tuesday’s loss.

“In my mind at that point, he was done for the day,” D’Antoni said. “So it was really never a question at the end of who would play.”

Jared Jeffries played the pivotal moments in Turiaf’s place. He momentarily put the Knicks ahead with a layup before allowing to hit the game-sealing basket and then losing the ball to Garnett while on offense.

Turiaf is expected to play Friday. The best the Knicks can hope for in Game 3 is having three starters — Stoudemire, Billups and Turiaf — able to play effectively despite their pain. Another starter, Landry Fields, has played poorly in the series.

That leaves Anthony, who will take the bulk of shots and shoulder most of the responsibility no matter who is on the court. Anthony said he would be willing to play the entire game and joked that he would go to bed early on Thursday for the extra rest.

“Without them two guys, I think me personally, I have to step up and try to do it all to try and win,” Anthony said. “But at the same time, we’ve got guys who have to step up on the team. Like I told you before, there’s no way I can do it by myself.”

He tried Tuesday and performed spectacularly, though he once again opened himself up to be second-guessed for a decision in the waning moments. With the Knicks down to one possession, he elected to pass to Jeffries, who had the ball stolen by Garnett.

“I wanted it,” Anthony said. “I wanted to take that shot. But the right thing to do is when somebody’s open, you’ve got to get it to them.”

In Game 1, he was criticized for attempting a game-winning 3-pointer over a double team in the final seconds.

“I didn’t take the shot,” Anthony said. “You guys criticized me for that. I took the shot the other day, you criticized me for that. But it’s all good to me. If I was in the same situation, I would definitely pass it to Jared again.”

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