Knicks Soundly Beat Celtics with DEFENSE, 109-94

The Knicks jumped out to a double-digit lead in the 1st quarter and led by that figure throughout in soundly beating the Celtics, start-to-finish, at Madison Square Garden on a Monday night. The Celtics came into the game with the best record in the NBA.

The skinny:

  • NY went up by 17 points at one point; Boston made several runs but were never able to get closer than 9 points down, and the Knicks quickly pushed the lead back up.
  • The Knicks used DEFENSE to pressure the 3, and Mitchell Robinson dominated with shot blocking, rebounding, and interior presence.
  • The Knicks held Jayson Tatum to 14 points on 6-18 shooting (1-9 from 3) before he got a second technical foul and was ejected with just over 3 minutes left in the 4th.
  • On the offensive end, Immanuel Quickley starred — scoring 23 points and bringing energy and 3-pt shooting whenever he came in. Julius Randle added 23 points on 7-16 shooting. But it was a total team offensive and defensive effort.

“I thought it was a good, solid team win,” said coach Tom Thibodeau afterwards.”Their record tells you how good they are. They can make up ground very quickly with the way they shoot the 3. Their shot profile is terrific. So no lead feels safe with them.”

NY has now won 6 in a row, and are 36-27 — in sole position of 5th place in the Eastern Conference. The Celtics fall to 44-18 — now tied with Milwaukee for the best record in the NBA.

1. Robinson at Heart of DEFENSE

The Knicks Defense started with Mitchell Robinson, who dominated inside — blocking shots, tipping shots for steals, ripping down rebounds, and creating an aegis defense inside. Robinson also was creating havoc on the offensive end with slams off feeds — he finished with 10 pts on 5-5 shooting, 13 rebounds (11 on the defensive end), 2 blocks, and 2 steals.

On his 11 defensive rebounds, Robinson had this to say after the game: “Me and Thibs talked about that not too long ago. He said I had an A+ in offensive rebounds, and a C in defensive rebounds. So I need to bring that up; ’cause I want all A’s.”

Robinson signaled to the night air that this would be a Knick victory when he had the block of the game in the 1st half against Jayson Tatum, which went viral.

“He’s an elite defender, obviously,” said Thibs about Robinson. “The rim protection — even if he’s not blocking, they’re looking for him. And he’s got great discipline in the restricted. And then offensively, just creating the extra possessions and doing what he does there, it’s big for us.”

More Robinson, including another look at the block on Tatum:

2. Knicks Defended and Didn’t Foul

The Knicks came out looking to defend the Boston 3 — as the Celtics have a rep for taking a lot of them. NY pressured the 3 well, forcing Boston into 1-21 shooting from 3 in the 1st half and 9-42 shooting from 3 overall.

NY also had hands straight up all evening — and thus did not create many fouls — which is a mantra of coach Tom Thibodeau.

This created a free throw discrepancy, as Boston was only 11-14 from the line, while the Knicks drove the lane repeatedly and picked up fouls — going 23-34 from the line.

Boston fans afterwards were screaming at the refs on Twitter, but it seemed the Knicks solid defensive fundamentals and offensive drives were the differentiator.

“They put pressure on our defense,” said Boston coach Joe Mazzulla afterwards. “They do a good job of putting pressure in the paint, and free throws, so if you can’t make open shots you constantly have to guard paint-threat, paint-threat, paint-threat, and they put a lot of pressure on our defense. I didn’t think it was our night.”

3. Quickley a Killer on Offense

Immanuel Quickley came off the Knick bench to sting Boston with his energetic playmaking and 3-pt shooting. Quick had 23 pts on 7-13 shooting (4-7 from 3; 5-6 in free throws), 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and a steal.

Jalen Brunson had a good night — 17 points on 4-14 shooting — he was 0-4 from 3 but got to the line — 9-12 in free throws. Brunson had a +21.

Obi Toppin hit a big 3 and scored on a huge drive, helping off the bench with 9 points in 12 minutes. Toppin was in the game late in the 4th.

Quentin Grimes played well — 5 pts, 4 assists, great defense and some SLICK moves to the bucket.

4. Randle Outplayed Tatum

And Julius Randle with his 23 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists outplayed Jayson Tatum.

Tatum’s frustrations erupted with just over 3 minutes left, when he missed a shot but got slapped on his hand by Randle — with no foul call.

Tatum got a 2nd technical and hook as Josh Hart signaled Gone.

Afterwards, Tatum took to Twitter to show why he was frustrated:

Some fans in the comments pointed out that the hit on the hand came after the shot, not affecting it, and therefore under current NBA rules was not a foul — and that the same thing happened to RJ Barrett last week.

5. Hart More Minutes than Barrett

RJ Barrett started off slowly again, but came alive late in the 3rd quarter — rescuing the Knicks after Boston had cut the NY lead down to 10.

  • Barrett drove the lane and alley-ooped a pass to Robinson for a slam;
  • next time down hit a 3 ball from the right side, and
  • next time down scored on a drive-and-one to bring the Knick lead back up to 16, at 57-41.

But Barrett was quiet on the offensive end after that and finished the night with 10 points in 26 minutes. He had 2 turnovers early in the 4th — one on a drive where he kicked a pass back out but it was intercepted — and found the bench with 8 minutes left after a NY timeout. Josh Hart replaced him and finished out the game.

But Barrett contributed to the strong Defensive effort. As NBA analyst Ace Zullo tweeted “I thought the defense by Grimes and Barrett (yes, Barrett) set the tone for the entire game.”

Hart had another Tremendous game — all over the court with defense and steals — and 12 points in 27 minutes and a +15. Barrett played 26 minutes and had a -6.

“Josh Hart is a winning player,” NBA analyst Ross Kreines tweeted. “Watch Josh hedge over screens, gets after and into you defensively, rebounds, plays bigger than he is, action off the ball, uses shot fakes, jab steps, unselfish and gets 50/50 balls. Also, makes the extra effort plays and extra pass that can decide games”

6. Get Smart; No Jaylen

Jaylen Brown was out for the Celtics. The last time NY played Boston, Marcus Smart was out; this time it was the opposite — Brown was out but Smart played. And Smart played really well — showing off his Defensive Player of the Year skills, hitting 3’s, and drives. He gave the Knicks fits all night — and had 19 points on 7-15 shooting (2-7 from 3).

The Boxscore

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