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Knicks 90, Celtics 76

Celtics lose Game 3 to Knicks

Jeff Green led the Celtics with 21 points Friday, but they got down early and couldn’t recover against the Knicks.

Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Jeff Green led the Celtics with 21 points Friday, but they got down early and couldn’t recover against the Knicks.

The pregame ceremony brought forth a deafening standing ovation.

The crowd roared and applauded and chanted Friday, thanking the first responders and others recognized for their efforts in the aftermath of the Marathon bombings.

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By halftime, those same emotionally charged fans, many of which donned “Boston Strong”  T-shirts, were booing the team it came to cheer.

The Celtics hoped TD Garden’s home-parquet advantage would give them the boost they needed in Game 3 against the New York Knicks.

But the Celtics turned their own crowd against them, dulling its high spirits with an all-around pathetic effort.

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The Celtics hoped their awful offensive performances from their first two losses in the Eastern Conference first-round series would stop. But the team only kept turning the ball over, missing wide-open shots, and looking lost in an ugly 90-76 loss.

And now, all the Celtics’ braggadocio talk of playing with desperation is all they have left.

JIM DAVIS/GLOBE STAFF

The Celtics’ Jeff Green is too late to prevent J.R. Smith from throwing down a fourth-quarter dunk. Smith scored 15 points prior to his ejection.

They are a loss in Sunday’s Game 4 at TD Garden from having their season finished.

The Knicks, meanwhile, are one win from taking their first playoff series in 13 years.

“They haven’t won it yet,” said Jeff Green, who led the Celtics with 21 points.

Of note: No NBA team has come back from a 3-0 series deficit.

Also: The Celtics haven’t been swept in the playoffs since Kevin Garnett joined the team in 2007.

But do the Celtics have a four-game winning streak in them?

“There’s no other choice,” said Garnett, who had 12 points and 17 rebounds. “We’re out of options here.”

The Celtics won the tipoff. It was downhill from there.

Paul Pierce missed a layup, and Garnett grabbed the rebound.

Then Garnett missed a point-blank shot, and Pierce grabbed the rebound.

The ball was kicked out to Avery Bradley, who was staring at a wide-open 3-pointer.

Clank.

The Celtics scored just 13 points in the second quarter, which was pretty early considering such a figure is what they’ve become known for during the third and fourth quarters of this series.

And it was in that second quarter that New York started to embarrass the home team, though the Celtics did a fine job of embarrassing themselves.

On one play, the shot clock was winding down and Green was several steps beyond the 3-point line. He seemed to throw the ball at the basket, like a quarterback. It didn’t come within 10 feet of hitting anything.

Meanwhile, the Knicks were hitting 3-pointers, converting fast-break baskets, and 40-year-old Jason Kidd threw an alley-oop pass to Carmelo Anthony, who slammed it home.

After a 21-6 run, the Knicks led, 47-29.

“I didn’t think we showed up not to play well,” Doc Rivers said. “Overall, our effort was there. I thought we did lose our spirit early on.”

The Celtics, trailing by 16 at halftime, exited to a loud chorus of boos.

“Our goal was to not even let them believe they have a shot,” said J.R. Smith, who scored 15, “and I think we did a great job at that and the way we got into it, defense and moving the ball.”

Smith was ejected after being issued a Flagrant-2 foul for elbowing Jason Terry in the face in the fourth quarter.

It was just one of many hits the Celtics absorbed Friday night.

“You have to take some punches,” Garnett said. “We took them but we didn’t really give none back. I mean, when we messed up, they made us pay for it. Good teams are going to do that.”

Boston had 17 total turnovers that the Knicks turned into 26 game-deciding points.

New York also made 11 3-pointers and got into the paint whenever it pleased.

“They’ve been real effective in their pick-and-rolls,” Green said. “We’ve got to make a change. We’ve got to put a lot more pressure on the ball. Get up into the ball. We’ve got to find a way to defend their pick and rolls, plain and simple.”

After halftime, there were loud “M-V-P” chants for . . . Anthony, who scored a game-high 26.

And the Celtics fans did perk up . . . when an unruly Knicks fan was escorted out by security.

But those same fans filed out in droves long before the score was final.

Did the Celtics play desperate, as they said they would?

“Yeah, I thought we started out that way,” Rivers said. “We just couldn’t make shots.”

It was another abysmal night for the offense, and the third game in the series that the Celtics scored fewer than 80 points. They had just 31 at halftime.

In a lineup switch, Rivers started Terry to try to take pressure off Avery Bradley, but it didn’t work. Will Rivers stick with that in Game 4?

“I don’t know. We’re [down] 0-3. I may start you in the game, if you can give me something,” Rivers told a reporter in the postgame news conference.

Many of the Celtics players bolted from the locker room early, before reporters arrived. Garnett, Pierce, and Rajon Rondo had a long chat behind closed doors.

Finally, about an hour and a half after the game ended, Garnett and Pierce spoke with reporters.

Pierce, who scored 17 points, said he was surprised.

“I thought we were a team that matched up really well with the Knicks,” he said.

Garnett said he hoped the fans enjoyed a diversion.

“Obviously, like I said, the results ain’t what we wanted, but looking in the stands, people drunk and having fun and high-fiving for the most part,” he said.

But in all, the Celtics are one game away from their season being over.

And they’ve done little against the Knicks to make anyone believe that Sunday’s game won’t mark the end of the 2012-13 Boston Celtics.

Baxter Holmes can be reached at baxter.holmes@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BaxterHolmes.
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