NEW YORK — Carmelo Anthony was just too much.
Anthony scored a game-high 36 points while J.R. Smith added 15 as the Knicks beat the Celtics , 85-78, Saturday afternoon at Madison Square Garden in Game 1 of their best-of-seven series.
Jeff Green  started out hot but scored just six points in the second half and finished with 26 while Paul Pierce  added 20 for the Celtics, who committed 21 turnovers in falling down 1-0 in the series.
The Celtics scored just 25 points in the second half, including just eight in the fourth quarter. They had three more turnovers (10) in the second half than field goals (7).
After the Celtics scored the first four points of the game, the Knicks went on a 12-2 run as Anthony started off on fire. He hit a pair of threes and was a perfect 4-for-4 from the field, scoring 10 points in the opening four minutes of the game. But the Celtics responded and quieted the crowd for the rest of the quarter, taking a 29-26 lead after one as Green drilled a three at the buzzer.
The Celtics turned up the defensive pressure on Anthony and the Knicks in the second quarter as Anthony missed nine of his next 11 shots from the floor. Coach Doc Rivers , meanwhile, took Green off Anthony defensively, allowing him to get into an offensive rhythm. The result was immediately felt. He scored 12 of his 20 first-half points in the second quarter as the Celtics took a 53-49 halftime lead. Green was on fire in the first half, going 7-of-10 from the field. Avery Bradley  (11) and Paul Pierce (10, six assists) were the only other in double figures in the first 24 minutes.
The Knicks scored the first five points of the third quarter to regain the lead but the Celtics used an 11-1 run late in the third quarter to built their biggest lead, 70-63, capped off when Pierce hit a long pull-up three.
Kevin Garnett’s turnaround over Kenyon Martin  with just over eight minutes left tied the game, 72-72. Anthony responded on the next possession to give the Knicks the lead again.
Anthony hit a jumper over Green to put the Knicks up four, 76-72, before Pierce responded with a tough jumper with 6:03 left. But then, in a pivotal moment of the game, J.R. Smith drove to the basket and converted a layup with 5:44 left and drew the fifth foul on Kevin Garnett.
Pierce hit a jumper with 4:34 to close Boston within three, 79-76. But on consecutive possessions the Knicks missed open looks at threes and the Celtics were unable to execute offensively. Anthony’s layup with 2:31 left put New York up, 81-76.
Smith had a key steal of an Bradley pass to Pierce with just under four minutes left but Raymond Felton  missed a wide-open three. Pierce missed a three that would have tied the game with just over three minutes left. Anthony hit a long two-point jumper over Green with 1:21 left to give the Knicks an 83-76 lead.
Game 2 is Tuesday night back at Madison Square Garden at 8 p.m. before the series shifts back to Boston next Friday. For complete coverage from Madison Square Garden, visit the Celtics team page at weei.com/celtics .