Jayson Tatum Turns Dogfight into Easy Win. Boston 114 NY 98

Jayson Tatum went Nuts in the 4th quarter to turn what was a dogfight into an easy Celtics win in Boston on a Monday night.

RJ Barrett missed the game with a migraine headache — a late scratch. He would have helped — his length important in guarding a player like Tatum. The question is: would he have made the difference?

That’s the big question for the Knicks — as they will have to go thru Boston to get to the finals. Last year the Knicks took 3 out of 4 from Boston during the regular season; both NY and Boston were defeated by Miami in the playoffs so never faced each other.

In the off season, Boston acquired Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Holiday in exchange for Marcus Smart and Robert Williams in separate trades. Boston looks improved — Porzingis is healthy and playing great, and Boston is well coached by Joe Mazzulla.

Despite all that, this was a dogfight until Boston turned it in the 4th. The Knicks — playing the 2nd night in a row on a back-to-back, and without Barrett — were in command of the game in the 1st half, and were leading until late in the 3rd.

“We didn’t close out any quarters as well as we could have or should have,” said coach Tom Thibodeau afterwards. “That was probably the biggest thing. I think we were up 8 with 3 minutes to go (just before the half). Same thing happened at the end of the 1st and at the end of the 3rd.”

Boston improves to 8-2; NY falls to 5-5.

1. Knicks Controlled Game in 1st Half

This was a physical dogfight from the get go. Both teams clearly saw it as an early season Statement Game. The Knicks were right in Boston’s face — and took command in the 1st quarter, taking a 21-16 lead on a Jalen Brunson jumper with 3:39 left.

But Boston rallied in the final few minutes on buckets by Jaylen Brown and Al Horford and a 3 by Sam Hauser that put the Celtics up by 1 at the end of the quarter.

Hauser was a pain in the ass all night — going 4 for 6 from 3 for 12 points.

But the Knicks took control again in the 2nd quarter. NY’s passing was crisp and Julius Randle and Jalen Brunson were doing their thing. The Knicks were rotating the ball and Josh Hart was hitting open 3’s.

As NBA analyst Ross Kreines described the above play, “Julius Randle had a mismatch so the Celtics sent a double and he does a nice job passing out of the double and gets the hockey assist that led to an open 3. By recognizing a double and passing it out for an easier look the game not only becomes easier for others but also for him.”

NY took a 37-29 lead midway thru the 2nd quarter and led 40-32 after an Immanuel Quickley 3 with 5 minutes left. NY led 51-43 after a Quentin Grimes 3 with 1:33 left.

2. Boston Pulls to Within a Point at Half

But Boston rallied in the final 1:33 of the 1st half — a Porzingis 3, Tatum dunk, and Jaylen Brown 3 pulled Boston to within a point going into intermission.

“I thought we played pretty well in the 1st half,” continued Thibs. “We didn’t protect our basket right at the end of that last minute and a half (of the 1st half). A bad minute can be 10 points and it was.”

3. Boston Takes Lead With Run at End of 3rd

The Knicks were bitten on some calls. There was a turnaround at 58-all — the ball went out of bounds off Boston — but the Celtics challenged and won the challenge as the ball was off Randle — but the replay showed the ball went off Randle because he had his arm pulled back in a foul on Jaylen Brown — but the refs couldn’t call the foul on the review. Boston got the ball; Porzingis hit a 3; Boston 61 NY 58.

NY still came back to try and take control — Quentin Grimes kept hitting corner 3’s to give the Knicks an offensive punch — his 3 gave them the lead, 67-65 with 4:37 left in the 3rd, and his 3 with 3:05 left tied the game 72-72.

But again Boston closed out the quarter well — Porzingis was fouled by Quickley while taking a 3 — and hit all 3 free throws, and then Sam Houser and Jrue Holiday hit consecutive 3’s to give Boston an 84-74 lead.

Quickley free throws pulled NY to within 84-76 entering the 4th.

“We got a little stagnant and they hit 3’s,” said Julius Randle afterwards.

4. Tatum Takes Over in 4th

The Knicks tried to play catch up at the start of the 4th — pulling to within 3 on a Brunson 3 with 8:20 left.

But then Tatum hit a 3 and got on a roll. He shot 6 of 8 in the quarter — 3 of 4 from 2 (with a free throw) and 3 of 4 from 3 (with a free throw on a 4-pt play) — for 17 points. Some of his 3’s were from the parking lot.

“He’s a great player. He’s a great scorer,” said Randle afterwards about Tatum. “Josh and the guys did a good job making it tough for him but unfortunately he got it rolling at the end. He hit some deep 3’s too so..”

“I think our pace was just a little bit too slow,” added Randle. “We have to play a little bit faster. They’re a team that defensively switches everything and they try to funnel everything to Porzingis and let him protect the rim. So they’re banking on us playing isolation. We have to play a little bit faster vs a team like that and get downhill, drive and kick, spray and make our reads from there. You have to get it moving.”


Mitchell Robinson played a strong game but his stats suffered from guarding Porzingis at the perimeter all night. Robinson likes to own the inside but only had 6 rebounds, with 2 blocks, in 33 minutes guarding KP outside.

Late in the game, with Boston up 14 and a few minutes left — the Celtics purposely fouled Robinson to send him to the line where he missed both free throws. It was as if Boston was telling the Knicks — this is what we’re going to do in the playoffs.

It was a Statement Game.

The Boxscore



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