Roy Behren and two colleagues waited about 20 minutes last night before BGC Partners Inc. (BGCP:US) equity derivatives head Richard Anthony walked through Madison Square Garden’s 31st Street VIP entrance wearing a tie, pocket square, shoes and laces in New York Knicks orange.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Behren, who oversees investments at Westchester Capital Management LLC, said about a winning Knicks playoff series, before the foursome went to Anthony’s courtside seats.
They will have to wait at least two days longer. Celtics center Kevin Garnett scored 16 points and had 18 rebounds in a 92-86 victory that temporarily denied New York its first National Basketball Association playoff series win since 2000.
Knicks All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony scored a game-high 22 points in the loss. His team leads the series 3-2 with Game 6 in Boston tomorrow night. The Celtics are trying to become the first team in NBA history to win a seven-game series after trailing 3-0. The winner of the series will play either the Indiana Pacers or the Atlanta Hawks in the next round.
New York last won a playoff series 13 seasons ago and hasn’t clinched one at home since the previous year, when it beat Indiana to advance to the NBA Finals. Allan Houston scored 32 points in that June 1999 game, with Pacers guard Reggie Miller held to 3-of-18 shooting.
Ricky Martin’s “Livin’ La Vida Loca” was the top song on Billboard’s chart that month. Apple Inc.’s stock, $439 at close yesterday, was $11.
The Knicks have sold out 110 straight games at Madison Square Garden, including preseason and playoff contests. Last night, journalist Katie Couric and actors Zach Galifianakis and Ben Stiller were among the crowd of 19,033.
So were finance, real estate, advertising and entertainment executives, according to Vinayak Singh, president of broker- dealer International Strategy & Investment Group Inc.
The Celtics “are too good a team to write off,” Singh said after the loss.
Five Celtics players scored at least 16 points, including forwards Paul Pierce and Brandon Bass. Boston held a six-point lead at halftime after the Knicks opened the game with an 11-0 run, and the Celtics never trailed in the second half.
“We talked before the game that we were going to have to overcome tremendous emotion at the start of the game and that happened,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “Everybody just wanted to be in the fight tonight, and everyone did their part.”
The Knicks have averaged 87.6 points per game in the series, 12.4 points below their regular-season average, and the team has shot below 40 percent from the floor in two failed attempts to close out the series.
“If we hold them to less than 95 points I’m happy, but we’ve got to find some offense somewhere,” Knicks coach Mike Woodson said. “Nobody said it would be easy.”
The NBA’s regular-season scoring champion, Anthony’s 22 points were his fewest since he scored that many on March 27 against the Memphis Grizzlies. He said after the game that the team remains confident.
“We still control our own destiny,” he said.
In the 14 years since New York’s 1999 Finals loss to the San Antonio Spurs, the team has had four first-round playoff exits and a nine-year stretch from 2002-2010 when it made the playoffs once.
Tickets for last night’s game were listed on the secondary market for an average price of $540, the most expensive game of the NBA playoffs so far, according to aggregator TiqIQ. It said the cheapest resale ticket at tip-off was $78.
That’s less than one fiftieth of the $4,250 that BGC’s Anthony said is the starting playoffs price for one of his four season-ticket seats, which belonged to credentialed media until the 2005-06 season. He agreed to buy the season tickets without asking the price, $3,600 each for regular-season games, he said.
“I feel extremely optimistic and through this challenge will come positive results,” Anthony said after last night’s game.
The Pacers lead their series 3-2 after a 106-83 home win last night and can finish off the Hawks with a win in Game 6 at Atlanta tomorrow night. Also last night, the Houston Rockets stayed alive in their series with a 107-100 win at the Oklahoma City Thunder, who still lead 3-2 with Game 6 tomorrow night at Houston.
The Knicks entered this year’s playoffs with the fourth- best odds to win the NBA title at 16-to-1, according to online sportsbook Bovada.lv, trailing the defending-champion Miami Heat (2-3), Oklahoma City (17-4) and the Spurs (10-1).
“People in New York want to be around exciting moments,” said David Maurer-Hollaender, a vice chairman of the consulting unit at commercial real estate broker CBRE Group Inc. “This is a seminal moment in New York sports, and so everyone wants to be here.”
New York Giants defensive end Justin Tuck, sitting in the same row, has played through those moments. The Giants’ 2012 Super Bowl title was the city’s most recent major championship.
Tuck said after halftime that fan fervor would be lifted instead of damaged if the series returns to New York for a deciding game on May 5.
“If it goes to Game 7, there will be 20,000 fans here screaming their lungs out,” he said.
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