The Madison Square Garden rims were still friendly to Pierce and a day after they combined for 14 3-pointers in Game 3 of a first-round playoff series and pushed the to the brink of elimination with a victory.
The game continued a splendid series for Allen, one of the best shooters in history. This season, Allen, 35, set the league’s career record for 3-pointers on his way to shooting a career-best 44.4 percent from behind the 3-point line.
It was Allen’s first playoff game in New York; the Knicks, after all, only recently broke a seven-year postseason drought. Allen made the game-sealing 3-pointer in the series opener and hit another eight 3-pointers on his way to 32 points Friday. In the series, he is shooting a blistering 75 percent from long range, having made 15 of 20 3-point attempts. Allen said he noticed that Pierce, who scored 38 points in Game 3, was having a solid game, and was not aware of his own performance until afterward.
“I don’t think you can say that they are playing wrong,” Allen said of the Knicks’ defense. “When me and Paul come off, you have to help, so for a split second, someone is shifted. If I come off not open, that means a big might be open. So many things have to happen at the right time. If you do it the right way, someone is going to have a shot, and we just have to knock it down.”
The statement is a frustrating reality for opponents. Coach said he was most impressed by his frontcourt players — , and Glen Davis — who helped create space for Pierce and Allen by setting solid screens. “You could see our bigs — we showed them our film today — they were sprinting across court just to get a piece of one of those two guys’ man to get them open,” Rivers said. “They realized what they had going and instead of recreating the wheel, they just stayed with it.”
Of setting the screens, Rivers said, “I don’t know if it’s a lost art, but it’s an art we can all work on.”
Now the Knicks will try to avoid the ignominy of being swept out the playoffs Sunday. Since Pierce, Allen and Garnett united in 2007, the Celtics have played in 10 playoff series, but have never swept an opponent.
Last season, Boston won the first three games in its first-round series against Miami. In Game 4, Dwyane Wade scored 46 points to a force a fifth game, which Boston won. This season, Boston will almost certainly face the revamped Heat in the next round. Any added rest would benefit a veteran squad and , who has yet to make an appearance because of a leg injury. Rivers ruled him out for Sunday’s game.
“You just don’t want to give a team confidence, regardless of resting your legs,” Pierce said. “Any little kind of confidence you give a team, you never know what can happen. I don’t want to be a part of that team, part of N.B.A. history, being the first team to give up a 3-0 lead. It’s a combination of the rest and playing well; you want to play well.”
Friday was the first time in the three playoff games that Boston resembled a championship team after a shaky second half of the regular season. The same dip occurred last season before Boston righted itself and took the to a seventh game in the N.B.A. finals.
“The way we played last year and this year at the end of the season, it’s definitely not a recipe we want to stick to because going into the playoffs you want to be playing well,” Pierce said.
“This year has been trying with the injuries, just a number of things, long season, maybe the age of the group. But for some reason when playoffs come around, guys just know how to step up. And it’s really frustrating for me that you can play so inconsistently, then come to the playoffs and things just start happening the way you want them to happen.”