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Celtics sneak by Knicks 103-101

Boston now improves to 2-1 thanks to another strong performance from Jayson Tatum.

NBA: Boston Celtics at New York Knicks Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The Boston Celtics defeated the New York Knicks on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden by a score of 103-101 in the first nail biter of their 2018-19 campaign. This comes after the Celtics dropped their first game of the season last night in Toronto. Gordon Hayward did not play on Saturday in night two of the team’s first back-to-back of the year. Brad Stevens said that Hayward had “a little soreness” on Saturday morning, and as a result, Aron Baynes was inserted into the starting lineup. It was Jayson Tatum who would ultimately take charge at Madison Square Garden, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

Boston took advantage of 9/17 shooting in the first 10 minutes thanks to a strong showing from the frontcourt. Baynes and Al Horford would combine for 14 first quarter points (5/6 FG). The Celtics did a great job of containing Enes Kanter, taking control of the glass from the get-go led by Horford’s 6 first quarter rebounds. Ball-movement was also a strong suit, as 9 of the Celtics’ first 10 field goals came off assists. Four Celtics players had multiple assists through the first nine minutes of tonight’s game.

The Knicks reserves would make a strong push back into this one, cutting the lead to single digits early in the second quarter. Boston’s offense became rather stagnant when Horford went to the bench, missing all ball movement that existed 15 minutes prior. Terry Rozier provided a brief mid-quarter boost, but the Knicks hung tough. Boston led 50-48 at the half.

The Celtics shot 8/14 from deep, but only 10/34 on twos in the first 24 minutes. Despite those numbers being a major takeaway from Boston’s poor second quarter, the Celtics transition defense once again stuck out for the wrong reasons. It’s early in the season, so defensive tweaks will inevitably arrive, but it’s something to keep an eye on moving forward.

Aron Baynes left tonight’s game in the second quarter with a “sore right hamstring”, so Stevens turned to Marcus Smart to begin the second frame. It seemed fitting for Boston to replace an injured center with Smart because, you know, he’s Marcus Smart.

Horford picked up his fourth foul early in the third quarter, which led to Guerschon Yabusele getting his first meaningful minutes of the year. He would hit his first jumper less than a minute after entering the game. The third frame was a bit sluggish, but the fourth quarter became quite the nail bitter down the stretch, as the two teams traded buckets for the final two minutes in front of a rejuvenated MSG crowd.

The Celtics were fortunate enough to follow Jayson Tatum’s lead through some low points of the third quarter. The 20-year-old had a career high 14 rebounds to go along with 24 points, including a huge turnaround jumper with 21.1 seconds left. He was the best player on the floor for Boston for most of the night.

Kyrie Irving also had a quiet 16 points and played a big role in the Celtics closing out their second win of the season.

The Knicks were led by Tim Hardaway Jr. and Enes Kanter with 24 and 17 points, respectively.

The Celtics return home to face the Orlando Magic on Monday night at 7:30 PM EST.

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