Last week saw the Boston Celtics’ season-opening win streak brought to an end, but two tough losses haven’t kept the team down for long. After winning both ends of a back-to-back this past weekend, they entered Monday night’s showdown with the New York Knicks looking to kickstart another streak. They accomplished exactly that, downing the Knicks for the second time this season behind a 62-point second half and a dominant fourth quarter from Jayson Tatum.
The Celtics’ three top scoring options carried their customary load tonight. Tatum (35), Jaylen Brown (22) and Kristaps Porzingis (21) all eclipsed the 20-point threshold on the night, compensating for a quiet outing from Derrick White, who went scoreless. For the Knicks, Jalen Brunson scored 26 points, while Julius Randle, off to arguably the worst start to the season in the entire NBA, added 25 but struggled with his efficiency somewhat, shooting just 7-of-19 from the floor.
From the opening tip, this game featured assertive scoring from both teams. The Knicks raced out to a quick start behind the heady play of Brunson, who notched 11 points in the first quarter, while the Celtics’ attack was its customarily balanced self, with four starters plus Al Horford putting points on the board early. The quality of play between two good teams tends to increase as they become more familiar with each other, and this was evident early tonight. The Celtics entered the second quarter with just a 25-24 lead.
JB coming for the league lead in power slams pic.twitter.com/dwaViv5NxL— Boston Celtics (@celtics) November 14, 2023
The emergence of Sam Hauser continued this evening. After a relatively minor slump across the team’s first three games, Hauser has been on an absolute tear over the past six. He entered tonight’s contest making better than 45% of his three-pointers, and in the first half, pushed that total even higher after connecting on three of his first four attempts. Hauser finished with 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting on the night.
In the second quarter, the Knicks began to seize hold of the reins. They opened the frame with a 13-4 run, bolstered by a suddenly dysfunctional Boston offense that coughed up a number of sloppy turnovers. Their defense cracked down, however, enabling them to staunch the bleeding and hold the Knicks within arm’s reach. Brown splashed in an incredible buzzer-beating three-pointer, and the Celtics trailed by just one point entering the halftime break, 53-52.
The Celtics faced a minor scare early in the third quarter after Porzingis came up limping on a knee-to-knee collision after a Randle drive to the basket. He remained in the game and appeared to walk off the pain prior to Randle’s free throws, but it bore paying some mind to, given the team’s relative lack of depth in the frontcourt (Neemias Queta remains out with a foot injury). Porzingis did not return to the locker room, and did not appear to have any adjustment to his usage as the game went on.
The pace of the game slowed to a near-crawl in the third quarter, bogged down into a gritty and physical affair between two teams with tough and versatile defenses. The Celtics reclaimed the lead on a dunk from Porzingis in the early minutes of the second half, and the lead stuck within one possession for nearly the ensuing nine minutes of play. The Knicks’ composure seemed to waver as the clocked ticked down, however. They put the Celtics on the free throw line seven times in the final four minutes of the third — including two technical free throws — and gave up threes to Porzingis, Hauser and Holiday, allowing the Celtics to build a bit of a buffer. Boston entered the final quarter with an eight-point lead, 84-76.
The Knicks pulled themselves together as play resumed in the fourth quarter, and they continued to hang around in this game. The lead hovered around six points in the early minutes as New York answered Boston’s attempts to carve a double-digit lead. Payton Pritchard hit his first three of the night with just over nine minutes remaining to put the Celtics ahead by nine, but the Knicks responded with consecutive threes from Josh Hart and Brunson to claw their way back in.
As the clock ticked under eight minutes to play, Tatum made the play that shifted the momentum fully towards Boston — a four-point play on a Hart shooting foul. Holiday connected on a jumper moments later. The shot was initially ruled a two-pointer, but after a coach’s challenge from Joe Mazzulla, was changed to a three, giving Boston a 10-point lead with just over six minutes to play.
scenes from a four point play pic.twitter.com/7bLmLNB4C9— Boston Celtics (@celtics) November 14, 2023
Tatum’s four-pointer was perhaps a bit too early to quite count as a “dagger” in the true spirit of the term, but functionally, that’s exactly what it was. As the Celtics pushed their lead into double-digits, it felt like the Knicks had run out of gas. Boston outscored New York 10-4 after the Holiday three-pointer, including consecutive threes from Tatum to claim a 16-point lead with just three minutes remaining in regulation, forcing a Tom Thibodeau timeout.
Next up, the Celtics kick off a four-game road trip with their eye on a little bit of revenge, returning to Philadelphia for their second road matchup with the 76ers this Wednesday at 7:30 EST on TNT.