BOSTON, MA — Youth served the Celtics very well Tuesday night.
Jaylen Brown celebrated his 21st birthday by scoring 18 of his game-high 23 points in the first half while Jayson Tatum added 22 as the Celtics pulled away in the first half and blew out the Knicks, 110-89, Tuesday night at TD Garden.
Kyrie Irving pumped in 20 points, while Al Horford had 13 points and 13 rebounds for the Celtics, who improved to 2-2. Boston held New York’s Kristaps Porzingis to 3-of-14 shooting and 12 points on the night.
Jayson Tatum, still only 19, set the tone early in the first with a put-back slam of an Aron Baynes missed bank shot that electrified the TD Garden crowd. In the second quarter, Tatum blocked a Courtney Lee shot on one end and raced down the other end and took a perfect alley oop pass from Terry Rozier that was met by a thunderous roar from a Celtics crowd that is quickly learning to love watching Tatum play.
The stone-footed and helpless Knicks could only watch the high-wire act in awe.
With Gordon Hayward likely out for the season recovering from left ankle surgery, the Celtics can only hope that Tuesday night is a sign of the accelerated growth both young, promising stars will experience with expanded opportunity and responsibility.
The Celtics led 13-12 before Brown’s three-pointer ignited the Celtics on a 17-5 run to end the first quarter. The Celtics took that momentum into the second quarter, thanks to the red-hot play of fellow third pick sensation Jayson Tatum.
In the opening 4:25 of the second quarter, Tatum scored 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting - including makes on both shots from beyond the arc. Then, the Celtics put a stranglehold on the Knicks. Boston opened the second quarter on a 16-8 run, capped by consecutive threes from Tatum, Shane Larkin and Terry Rozier in a 90-second spurt. The Celtics led 46-25 on Rozier’s three with 6:08 remaining in the half.
Eventually, the Celtics pulled away for a 54-33 halftime lead, with Brown (18 points) and Tatum (12) leading the charge. Kyrie Irving was the other Celtic in double-figures with 11 at the half as the Celtics maintained complete control over a team they have now beaten 10 times in the last 12 meetings.
The rook is getting it done on both ends of the court! pic.twitter.com/e72995UM88— Boston Celtics (@celtics) October 25, 2017
Tatum forced a turnover of Ramon Sessions at midcourt with 9:40 left in the third quarter, picked up the loose ball and raced in for a one-handed slam that gave him 17 points, surpassing his 15 points from Friday night in Philadelphia. The slam put the Celtics up 22 at 59-37.
The Knicks made a brief run, cutting the lead to 16, 61-45, midway in the third quarter. But the Celtics quickly regrouped. The highlight was a scramble on the offensive end, as the shot clock was winding down. Just as the clock was about to expire, Irving took a pass from Al Horford and drained a three as the buzzer expired, putting the Celtics back up 20, 66-46.
The only bit of bad news from the night came in the third quarter as Baynes made his way back slowly to the Celtics locker room, wincing in some noticeable pain. Baynes suffered a hyperextended knee in the preseason and has been nursing it back to full strength.
Following their second straight win to even their record at 2-2, the Celtics head out on the road, where the test without Hayward gets markedly more difficult. They play at Milwaukee on Thursday and at Miami on Saturday before returning home on Monday to take on the Spurs at the Garden. Brad Stevens indicated that Marcus Morris is on track to return from his knee issue for that game.
The Celtics played their second straight game without Marcus Smart, who is nursing a sprained ankle. Brad Stevens says he’s hopeful that Smart would be available for the game against the Bucks on Thursday.