The Boston Celtics avenged their Monday night loss to the Charlotte Hornets with a . . . 117-109 loss against the New York Knicks. The Celtics were led by Kyrie Irving who posted 22 points and 13 assists (one shy of his career-high). Trey Burke, of all people, led the Knicks with 29 points and 11 assists off the bench.
This game did not start well. For the second game in a row, the Celtics started a lineup with Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Al Horford and Aron Baynes, but the team continued to jump into a first-quarter deficit. Tatum started the game aggressive, attacking the rim and trying to make things happen. Boston started to gain momentum toward the end of the first, managing to just go down 26-18 after shooting just 33% in the opening frame.
The Knicks, somehow, shot even worse despite their 8-point lead with a FG% of 32.1%. The second quarter didn’t get off to a better start. The Celtics didn’t make their open shots. They let the Knicks get open . . . a lot. The Knicks didn’t miss those opportunities. It wasn’t pretty. When the Celtics needed jumpshots, they forced the issue at the basket. When they needed paint points, they settled. When they got mismatches? Midrange fadeaway shots.
Toward the end of the first half, it was unexpectedly Gordon Hayward who put the team on his back. After being benched, Hayward put together an excellent stretch of 3 straight possessions of fantastic defense to spur the Celtics to a run to cut the deficit to 65-49 at the halftime break.
Hayward posted 13 points and 5 rebounds in just the first half, leading the Celtics back from a 26-point deficit down to just 16 at the end of the half. If anything positive came from this game, it was Hayward’s emergence as a positive player on both ends. Hayward ended the night with a season-high 19 points.
The second half started with Brown and Baynes on the bench, replaced by Morris and Hayward. It took 1 minute and 10 seconds for Jayson Tatum to be subbed out for Brown after taking an early-shot clock midrange jumpshot. I’m not sure whether the next fact is related, but the Celtics cut the lead to 11 after a few defensive stops and attacks in transition.
Jaylen Brown ended up being a big boost in the third frame, attacking the basket willfully, making the right play and defending well. For a team starved for reliable options, the Celtics were able to ride his hustle to cut the lead down. This highlight was a part of the energy that gave the Celtics momentum:
Unfortunately, the energy didn’t translate to anything on the scoreboard. They ended the quarter facing an 84-69 deficit despite all of the progress that they made in the third.
The deficit jumped out to 20 once again early in the fourth before a couple of triples between Hayward and Horford brought Boston back into the game. Brad found a lineup that worked with Marcus Smart, Horford, Irving, Hayward and Morris, but Brad only left them out there for a couple of minutes.
New York deserves a ton of credit. They had 5 players score in double figures, led by Trey Burke off the bench. Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 21, though it felt like more because it seemed as if he made every tough shot that the Celtics contested. Rookie Kevin Knox chipped in 11 points on 3/5 shooting, and Noah Vonleh threw up a similarly tidy line with 16 points on 6/9 shooting with 10 rebounds. 2 more players scored 8 for New York.
Boston tried desperately in the last 4 minutes. If they had started the game with this intensity, they would have won handily by double digits. Marcus Morris (21 points) ignited a run with a couple of tough shots. This happened, which was kinda fun:
Gordon makes it a 4-point game! pic.twitter.com/b2OFogPwVe— Boston Celtics (@celtics) November 22, 2018
And then everything crashed and burned. The Celtics are now 9-9. They play the Atlanta Hawks on Friday at 7PM EST.