Carmelo Anthony responded to a sub-par performance from Game One by surging to a 42-point, 17-rebound performance in Game Two.

However, it wasn't enough as the Celtics took a 2-0 series lead by squeaking out a 96-93 victory on their home court.

Now as the series shifts to the other Garden, Anthony will be called upon to repeat his Game Two effort, but this time Anthony and the Knicks will need to put together a better final minute than the last first two games of the series.

Indeed, the Knicks have kept both games extremely close against last season's Eastern Conference champions.

In Game One, Anthony appeared to take an ill-advised shot in the closing seconds. In Game Two, Delote West wasn't tracked down and was able to cut into the final seconds of the game before being fouled.

The cards are stacked against the Knicks, though, as starters' Chauncey Billups and Amare Stoudemire both may sit out the game.

Stoudemire is a game-time decision, which means that given the importance of the game, he is more likely to play than not, unless his pulled back muscle is worse than originally thought.

As for Billups, the veteran guard is experiencing soreness in his left knee, and head coach Mike D'Antoni said that he is more optimistic about Stoudemire than Billups suiting up for Game Three tonight.

That leaves one legitimate scorer at full strength: Carmelo Anthony.

The star forward is in his prime, making his Madison Square Garden playoff debut, and has the challenge of carrying the load for a team that needs him with Stoudemire and Billups not at full-strength.

It will be a difficult task for Anthony to put together another great night like he did in Game Two, particularly because his defense assignment is Paul Pierce.

Like Anthony, Pierce recovered from an off night in Game One, scoring 20 points on eight-for-18 shooting in Game Two.

The match-up between Anthony and Pierce will again be a contentious battle. Both small forwards are very relied upon in half-court sets. While players like Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Rajon Rondo are all capable of contributing big nights, Pierce was the team's leading scorer in the regular season, and no player has been on the club longer.

The Celtics have to feel a sense of relief that they won both home games. There is nothing convincing about victories where the winning team trailed in the last half-minute of regulation.

Tonight, they will enter a boisterous Madison Square Garden to fans who haven't seen a playoff game on their floor since 2004.

D'Antoni knows that other players will need to step up like Landry Fields, Toney Douglas, and the defense of Jared Jeffries.

But most eyes will be on Anthony, who was acquired by the Knicks for games like this.

I'll play 48 if I have to, Anthony said. It's the playoffs now. You have to leave it all on the court.