In the midst of a league-wide outbreak of COVID-19, the Boston Celtics and New York Knicks found themselves squared off on Saturday night in Boston while missing substantial portions of their rosters. Between the two teams, a total of 10 players missed the contest due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols, with the Celtics also missing Dennis Schröder due to a non-COVID illness. But despite struggling through a massive 41-point third quarter from the Knicks, the Celtics hung tough and scored a 114-107 win at TD Garden.
On a night when both Jayson Tatum (25 points) and Jaylen Brown (23) struggled with their efficiency at times, the Celtics received a surprise lift from their bench. Josh Richardson and Payton Pritchard picked up the slack for all of Boston’s missing rotation players, as both posted season-best performances en route to 43 combined points. On the other side, a pair of old friends powered the Knicks on the evening: Evan Fournier and a resurgent Kemba Walker combined for 61 points and nine made three-pointers.
Walker made his return to the Knicks rotation as a result of their diminished roster, and made an impact in the first quarter with a few quick buckets. However, it was clear that the Celtics were in the driver’s seat in the early going. The offense was clicking early, as they connected on six threes in the first quarter, and on the other end, they held the Knicks to just 30% shooting from the field en route to a 32-18 advantage heading into the second.
Walker continued to put points on the board in the second quarter, finding his way to the free throw line on several occasions to keep the Knicks within striking distance. The Celtics responded with a seldom-used bench player of their own: Payton Pritchard, who came alive with back-to-back corner threes at the midway mark of the quarter to reach double-digit scoring for just the second time this season. Alongside continued excellent performance from Tatum and Brown, the Knicks failed to pull within eight points in the quarter, and the Celtics led 62-47 at the halftime break.
The Celtics got caught on their heels as the second half began. The Knicks ripped off a monstrous 17-2 run to trim the Boston lead all the way down and tie the game at 64 apiece midway through the third quarter. Tatum put an end to the run with his third triple of the evening, but back-to-back threes from Walker on the other end completed the comeback and put the Knicks ahead by three points. The Celtics staunched the bleeding with some timely shotmaking in the closing minutes of the quarter, but the damage was already done. They entered the final frame trailing by two, 88-86.
Boston’s offense seemed to find itself in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter, reestablishing a lead after a pair of buckets from Richardson. It was easily the best night of Richardson’s young Celtics tenure, his highest scoring effort of the season (27 points) at a point when the short-handed roster needed him the most. His fourth three-pointer of the night put Boston ahead by five with just under nine minutes to play and prompted a New York timeout.
The Knicks’ three-point shooting kept them in the game as the clock ticked down. Alec Burks nailed a crucial corner three with just under four minutes remaining to cut the Boston lead down to three, but a pair of buckets from Robert Williams fended them off once again. Fournier nailed a mid-range jumper with two minutes to play, but a disastrous scenario ensued for the Knicks from there, as Fournier appeared to roll his ankle landing on Marcus Smart’s foot and Walker subsequently fouled out of the game. Fournier remained in the game, though limping, but the Knicks finally ran out of gas and the Celtics pulled out a hard-fought win.
Next up, the Celtics will host the Philadelphia 76ers, this Monday at 7:30 PM EST on NBA TV.
For more postgame coverage of the Celtics’ tough win at home, tune into the the Garden Report Postgame Show LIVE on CLNS Media right after the game. Join A Sherrod Blakely, Bobby Manning, Josue Pavon, Jimmy Toscano and host John Zannis for a full breakdown.