'Melo Ready to Play 48 Minutes in 'Must-Win' Game 3

GREENBURGH, N.Y.Carmelo Anthony hopes his injured teammates can play in Game 3 against the Boston Celtics Friday night.

But if Amar’e Stoudemire and Chauncey Billups can’t go, he’s ready to play the entire night in what he’s calling a “must-win.”

“I’ll play 48 [minutes] if I have to,” he said Thursday after practice. “It’s playoffs now. You know, you gotta leave it all out there on the court. If they can’t go, then maybe I’ll go to sleep a little bit earlier tonight, get some rest.”

Without Billups and Stoudemire in the second half of Game 2’s 96-93 loss, Anthony played all 24 minutes Tuesday night. He tied his playoff career-high with 42 points, adding 17 rebounds and six assists.

He wrapped both knees in ice packs after the game, but said the mental toll was greater than the physical one.

“I think it was just more of a mental exhaustion, just knowing how hard we played and how close we were in both of those games,” Anthony said. “For us to not win any of those games, I think mentally it just took a lot out of me.”

Still, in the immediate aftermath of Game 2’s loss, Anthony described it as “fun,” which drew the ire of critics who said Kobe Bryant never would utter such words.

“I’m not Kobe,” he said. “I ain’t Kobe, man. I still had fun in those games. We’re on the road. Nobody would ever say the Knicks would have a chance to win both games in Boston, so I’ll take that. We could’ve won both of those games. We’d could’ve been up 2-0 right now and you probably wouldn’t be asking me that question.”

Anthony defended his decision to pass to Jared Jeffries out of the double-team in the waning seconds of Game 2, just as he defended his choice of shooting the 3-pointer at the end of Game 1. Neither play worked out for the Knicks.

“[Jeffries] had to make that decision,” Anthony said of Jeffries’ decision to try to pass to Bill Walker instead of shooting. “I can’t make that decision for him. Once I gave him the ball, it was up to him. He could take the shot or pass it. He chose to pass it.

“If I’m in that same situation, I would definitely pass it to Jared again. Today I told him, ‘Get a couple layups under the basket.’ I kept throwing it to him, throwing it to him, saying ‘Dunk the ball next time.’ It was all laughter, it was all fun and games. He understands what’s going on.”

Billups played plenty of playoff games with Anthony in Denver, but said Game 2’s performance might have been his best postseason effort ever.

“That would probably be the best with it being playoffs and on the road and against a really good defensive team, man, that was impressive,” Billups said. “That was impressive. I mean, he made every play to try to win the game. Even the play he made at the end, pass the ball to Jared, was the right play to make.

“That was impressive.

After playing two games in Beantown, Anthony is excited about the Knicks’ first home playoff game since 2004 and said he expects a “crazy” atmosphere.

Despite being down 2-0 to the defending Eastern Conference champs, Anthony is not worried about a sweep.

“We’re definitely not thinking about that,” he said. “It’s one game at a time, and Game 3 [Friday] here on our court, it’s a must-win. Must-win for us.

“This is the hardest game, by far, that we’ve played this season.”

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