After opening their week with a back-to-back shorthanded losses against Orlando and Miami, the Boston Celtics entered Thursday night’s matchup against the New York Knicks looking to return to their winning ways. Though the Celtics dug deep in their third game in four nights, they weren’t quite able to find the answer, falling to the Knicks in overtime, 120-117.
It was a top-heavy game for both sides, with Jayson Tatum leading the way for the Celtics with a 35-point night. Jaylen Brown added 22 of his own, but struggled with efficiency, shooting just 8-of-22 from the field. For the Knicks, it was the duo of Julius Randle and Jalen Brunson who led the dance. They were red-hot all night, combining for 66 points in the contest.
The Celtics put on a show in the early minutes of the game, resembling the form that saw them cash in on a team-record 27 three-pointers in the teams’ first matchup back in November. The threes were falling all across the lineup, with Tatum, Brown, Horford, White and Brogdon all cashing in. In all, they hit six of their first 12 attempts from deep, pulling ahead to a 34-26 lead entering the second quarter.
Freshly announced as an All-Star starter in the Eastern Conference, it was Tatum who drove the team early, connecting on his first five shot attempts en route to 16 first half points. Standing in his way was New York’s All-Star hopeful duo: Randle and Brunson, who combined for 28 points at the break. A modest run by the Knicks brought the game back within a single possession, which is where it remained for much of the second quarter. They countered Boston’s hot shooting with some tough shotmaking of their own, shooting 50% from the field in the first half, and the Celtics entered the halftime break with just a two point edge, 60-58.
The game continued to be a star-driven affair as the second half got underway. The leading scorers were exactly who you’d expect: Tatum, Brown, Randle and Brunson. It was the Knicks’ duo that had the edge, however; while Brown ranked second on the Celtics in scoring, his efficiency suffered. He connected on just 5-of-17 shots through three quarters, and with no other Celtics stepping up behind Tatum, the Knicks pushed their lead ahead to six with one quarter remaining to play, 91-85.
As the fourth quarter kicked off, the Knicks looked like a team that was not going to be denied. They outscored an increasingly listless Celtics team 11-4 in the early minutes, pushing their lead into double-digit territory. They did this with Randle and Brunson on the bench, capitalizing on sloppy turnovers and fouls on the part of the Celtics. Suddenly, Boston found themselves staring at a 10-point deficit with just seven minutes remaining in regulation.
The Celtics put up an admirable attempt at a comeback in the closing minutes. Playing their third game in four nights, they dug deep and locked in defensively, bringing heavy ball pressure against the Knicks’ ball-handlers and finally finding some stops. Malcolm Brogdon hit a three with just under two minutes to play, and suddenly the New York lead was down to just two points. Jayson Tatum tied the game with a layup as the clock ticked under a minute remaining, and the Celtics found themselves heading to overtime.
The Celtics kicked off a light-scoring overtime period with a Derrick White three-pointer from the corner just over a minute into the extra frame. Moments later, Tatum bullied his way to the free throw line, connecting on both freebies to extend the Boston lead to five. The Knicks weren’t quite ready to be buried, however, as Randle connected on a three-pointer with just over two minutes remaining to keep the Knicks within one possession.
The Randle three was followed by a lengthy scoreless streak, as neither team put together much of a coherent offense for most of the next two minutes and the lead stayed put at 115-113 in favor of the Celtics. Crunch time approached, and as the clock ticked under 30 seconds, the Knicks found RJ Barrett open in the corner, who connected on the three to put the Knicks ahead by one and prompt a Celtics timeout.
Coming out of the timeout, the Celtics played for a quick score and found Brown, who put home a layup to put the Celtics back on top — and line them up for the final shot. Randle made his way to the free throw line on the other end, converting both to give the Knicks a 118-117 lead with 21 seconds to play. Brown responded with a trip to the line of his own, but he missed both attempts, forcing the Celtics to intentionally foul RJ Barrett, who gave the Knicks a five-point lead with 5.1 seconds on the clock. Tasked with hitting a three to send the game to double overtime, both Tatum and Brogdon couldn’t find the mark on the final possession, and the Celtics were handed their third straight loss.
Next up, the Celtics have a weekend meeting with the arch-rival Los Angeles Lakers, this Saturday at 8:30 PM EST on ABC.