Michael Beasley has played just 124 games over the last four seasons between four teams. He’s been around the world trying to hold on to his NBA career. On national TV, he poured 32 points on the Celtics, 28 coming in the final 15 minutes.
Boston lost 102-93. A night after Kelly Olynyk unloaded on them, they held off Kristaps Porzingis through three quarters. A defensive rebound looked promised, then Beasley entered and all bets were off.
The Celtics held the Heat to 90 points Wednesday, a defensive resurgence aside from the Kelly inferno. That defensive purpose followed through Thursday night, with Al Horford shadowing Kristap Porzingis, stopping an early post turnaround shot in the low post and a spot-up three later in the first quarter.
The three-point attempt, Porzingis’ sixth field goal, came up empty and the Celtics’ defense held him to zero first quarter points. Into the second, Marcus Smart rotated in coverage, catching an elbow pressing up against him to draw an offensive foul.
The defense was “good,” Brad Stevens said between quarters, but the “offense stunk” one night after he called out its aggressiveness against Miami. New York bolted to a 13-2 run in the first four minutes. While Porzingis didn’t burn them, Jarrett Jack and Enes Kanter sabotaged the Celtics’ defensive rebounding, leading a 32-23 first half advantage.
Kanter finished three straight shots inside, one off an offensive rebound, as Jack facilitated an effective attack transitioning defensive rebounds to quality movement, including a pass to Courtney Lee on the right wing for a three-pointer that capped the run.
On offense, Horford started 1-of-3, missing a turnaround shot of his own in the opening stretch and another miss trying to put back an offensive board of his own. Kyrie Irving attacked the defense individually, in succession hitting one of two early three-point attempts and a layup to score five of Boston’s first seven.
Lance Thomas capped a 9-0 run with an elbow jumper, Irving broke it mixing up Kanter on a switch with dribble moves then hit an 18-footer. Frank Ntilikina faked Terry Rozier out and finished a jumper to end the first, and opened the second picking off Semi Ojeleye’s pass and scoring in transition.
The early portion of the second featured Stevens courting combinations that included Daniel Theis, Abdel Nader and Ojeleye. Rozier, Irving and Nader posted an 8-0 run with three jump shots over four possessions in the first three minutes, but an 0-of-6 stretch followed and Doug McDermott gave the Knicks some space with a three.
New York entered an 0-of-8 swoon of their own, Porzingis falling to 0-of-10 from the field midway through the second on a kick-out from Kanter. A door opened for Boston when Ojeleye’s three and a Horford free throw through that stretch pulled the Celts within six. But Thomas responded with a three, before Irving missed an outside look and Horford missed two in a row to fall to 1-of-4.
Horford’s third straight look outside was good, followed by one from Irving. Lee, Kanter and Porzingis got shut out on the interior for four straight stops, but Lee grabbed an Irving miss and drove full-court in the closing seconds before Kanter followed his miss with a dunk. The buzzer sounded with the Knicks ahead 44-40.
Boston’s semblance of offensive rebirth flowed into a full run with four straight three-point attempts to open the third quarter. Tatum hit one of his two, Irving drilled two straight to advance to 20 points and set up Horford for a dunk. 30 seconds later, Irving hit another three to push the Celtics ahead 54-51 even as New York opened 3-of-5.
The Celtics dove all the way into the three-point fixation through the third, over the next three-to-four minutes Smart and Jayson Tatum hit two of Boston’s four attempts. New York lost five possessions to turnovers through the stretch, the last a bad pass out of bounds with 5:20 left. Porzingis immediately went to the locker room with one point on 1-of-11 shooting.
Michael Beasley and Aron Baynes traded shots with three minutes remaining, then Tatum did this.
From there, Boston went on a 1-of-7 swoon with Irving missing the final layup of the half after his turnover led to Kyle O’Quinn’s put-back dunk on Lee’s jumper on the run. That tied the game at 68 entering the fourth, thanks to three straight makes from Beasley and a three by Lee marked a 9-2 New York run.
Beasley’s run of 16 points in 14 minutes continued into the fourth, aside from a dunk and jumper from Daniel Theis and free throw makes by Rozier and Ojeleye, the Celtics only hit two shots in a six minute stretch. Irving’s second straight miss, a spinning hook that rolled off the back of the rim to the right side landed in Beasley’s hands. He set up Ntilikina for a three, then a possession later got himself another bucket, his eighth in 13 attempts. New York led 77-75. And Beasley kept going, spinning past Ojeleye in the post for two off the glass.
That made it 20 points from Beasley in 17 minutes. Tatum punched back with a far-leaning shot with his foot on the line, Beasley made it 23 with a spot-up look, Tatum answered pump-faking O’Quinn on the right wing and drilling a deep two. Beasley came right back, a shot over Rozier in the paint for two and a pair of free throws. All of that yielding 11 points in three minutes.
The Celtics trailed 89-81, and Beasley had one more for Horford who chased him down to no avail. Ntilkina’s three on the next possession put Boston in a double-digit hole. Then McDermott added one of his own.