- Ian Begley, ESPN Staff Writer
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GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Amare Stoudemire played through pain in Game 3 of the Knicks-Celtics first-round series. If Stoudemire is in the same amount of pain on Sunday afternoon, he will sit out of Game 4.
"I don't want to do too much to reinjure it. We're just going to make a smart decision for tomorrow's game," said Stoudemire, who played 32 minutes in Game 3 with a pulled back muscle.
Stoudemire injured his back on a dunk attempt during warm-ups prior to Game 2. He sat out of the second half of Game 2 with back spasms and was in so much pain that he had to stand during his postgame news conference. He also needed a team trainer to help him put on his socks and shoes after the game.
An MRI on Wednesday revealed that Stoudemire had a pulled back muscle. He sat out of practice Thursday, staying home in Manhattan to receive treatment on the injury.
He worked out in the pool at the Knicks' practice facility Friday morning and had to make it through a workout an hour before tipoff to be cleared to take the court.
Stoudemire started on Friday night but struggled throughout the game. He finished with seven points on 2-of-8 shooting and pulled down three rebounds. He estimated that he was playing at less than 50 percent. He said on Saturday that he has to feel better to take the floor Sunday in Game 4.
"It has to be better. I knew last night I wasn't 100 percent. I wasn't 50 percent last night. I was pretty much in pain the whole game, from start to finish. I just don't want to further injure the injury," Stoudemire said, who added that his back was feeling worse on Saturday after having played on it the previous night. "We understand how bright the future is here with the organization. ... We want to continue that success out here in the next few years. So we don't want to damage anything by overdoing it."
The Knicks trail the Celtics, 3-0, in the best-of-seven series. No NBA team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit in a seven-game series.
"At this point in time right now, we've got to lay it out there on the court ... the X's and O's go out the window and we've just got to play basketball," said Carmelo Anthony, who followed his 42-point night in Game 2 with 15 points on 4-of-16 shooting on Friday. "... I don't want to get swept, we don't want to get swept so we've just got to go out there and leave it all out there on the floor."
Avoiding a sweep will be far more difficult for New York if it is without injured point guard Chauncey Billups. Billups, who has missed Games 2 and 3 with a strained left knee, is doubtful for Game 4, according to coach Mike D'Antoni.
D'Antoni also said that guard Toney Douglas, who has replaced Billups at point guard, suffered a right shoulder injury. D'Antoni doesn't believe the injury will hinder Douglas on Sunday. Douglas had 15 points, three assists and three turnovers in the Knicks' 113-96 Game 3 loss.
Injuries to key players have decimated the Knicks in their first playoff appearance since 2004.
Stoudemire was particularly frustrated with his ailment because of its fluky origin.
Stoudemire first hurt his back while dunking the ball with one hand after hitting the backboard with the other during Game 2 warm-ups, a dunk that he completes prior to every game.
The All-Star power forward was coming off of a 28-point, 11-rebound performance in Game 1. He has averaged just 5.5 points and 4.5 rebounds in the two games since the injury.
"We felt that we had a great chance to win that game and I was totally ready to go, to dominate for the rest of the series," Stoudemire said.
It may sound like Stoudemire is ready to wave the white flag for Game 4, but the the All-Star power forward insisted on Saturday that getting a win is paramount -- for both himself and the Knicks franchise, which hasn't won a playoff game since 2001.
"It would be great to win a game ... but due to the situation right now, a couple guys are injured [so] it's going to be tough," he said.
The Knicks have been cautious with Stoudemire throughout the season. The $100 million free-agent signee has a history of serious ailments. But D'Antoni said that the decision to play in Game 4 will rest solely with Stoudemire, who went through walk-through plays only during Saturday's practice.
"He wants to push through it so if he wants to do it, then I want to go with him," the coach said.
Ian Begley is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.
3dSteve Ilardi and Jeremias Engelmann