Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks let one get away.
That's surely the feeling among hoops fans in New York after the Knicks, who outplayed the Boston Celtics for most of the first game of their NBA playoff series, lost a heartbreaker, 87-85.
The Celtics' Ray Allen knocked down a clutch three-pointer with 12 seconds left in the second half.
Anthony, who scored 15 points, missed on his own attempt from downtown as time expired.
"They made big shots at the end," said Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni.
New York led 85-84 before Anthony was called for an offensive foul for pushing Pierce with 21 seconds remaining.
"What I thought and what they called were two different things," Anthony said.
Boston coach Doc Rivers disagreed.
"Heck of a call to make," he said, "but it was the right call."
Rondo then lined up to inbound the ball but called timeout. The next time, Allen inbounded from just in front of the half-court line on the right side. He threw the ball to Pierce, then circled to the other side of the court, caught Pierce's pass and fired up the deciding basket.
"We've run that play many times," Allen said. "It's a play that has so many options and tonight I was just the option."
Pierce's pass set it up. His defense also shut down Anthony, who scored just 15 points and missed 10 of 11 shots in the second half, including a 3-pointer with 2 seconds to go. Anthony or Amare Stoudemire usually takes the shot with the game on the line, but Kevin Garnett guarded Stoudemire much tighter in the last few minutes.
"We've got to find a way to win down the stretch," Stoudemire said. "We had a great chance to win. We played well throughout the full 48 minutes. We just didn't quite close it out."
New York had the same problem against Boston on Dec. 15, when Pierce hit a jumper with .4 seconds left to put the Celtics ahead 118-116 at Madison Square Garden. Stoudemire then sank a 3-pointer, but it was waved off after officials determined that time had run out.
On Sunday, Stoudemire had 28 points and 11 rebounds for New York.
Allen led the Celtics with 24 points, Pierce added 18 and Garnett had 15 points and 13 rebounds.
Third-seeded Boston got a tough challenge from the sixth-seeded Knicks, who allowed 105.7 points per game during the regular season, third-most in the league.
"I'd like our offense to be better," Rivers said, "but the only way it will be is with (defensive) stops."
They didn't need a stop to set Allen up for the winning basket.
"Ray's the hero with the shot," Rivers said. "Paul's the hero with the pass. That's a great example of not playing hero basketball, just trusting what we drew up. And he made the shot."
And, with a chance to win the game, Anthony missed.
"We're very confident," he said. "We're a team that is going to look at this game and build off of it."
Based on reporting by The Associated Press.