Not Enough Guys Back to Handle Celtics. Boston 116 NY 102

The Knicks have a lot of their guys back — but are still missing Julius Randle, OG Anunoby, and for that matter Mitchell Robinson — and could not measure up to the firepower of the Boston Celtics, who thumped them 116-102 on a Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.

The game was razor close until midway through the 3rd period, when Boston’s Kristaps Porzingis, Jayson Tatum, and Jaylen Brown hit three straight 3’s to take a 10-point lead. Two more consecutive 3’s late in the quarter by Porzingis and Tatum put Boston up 20 but the Knicks came back — pulling to within 9 points in the 4th quarter and with momentum.

But on a key sequence with 8 minutes left, Boston got several offensive rebounds and a bucket, the Knicks turned the ball over on the next 2 plays, and Knick drives rolled in and out while Boston made their shots — sending Boston on a 10-0 run for a 19-pt lead and ballgame.

“Obviously their record tells you how good they are,” said coach Tom Thibodeau afterwards. “They’re strong on both sides of the ball. It’s a team with Tatum and Brown, and you add in the way Derrick White and Holiday have played, and you add in Porzingis — it’s a team that doesn’t have any holes.”

“They have great defense,” added Thibs, “They have rim protection; their rebounding has become elite; offensively they have a number of guys that can break you down off the dribble; they’re really skilled; they can spread you out, they shoot the 3 great; they play very efficiently, they take 50 3’s a game, and they shoot it efficiently — the ones they miss those are long rebounds, and they’re quick to the ball. You have to make sure you challenge the shot and get back.”

NY drops to 34-23. Boston improves to an NBA best-by-far 45-12.

1. Brown vs Brunson Duel in 1st Quarter

Jaylen Brown played one of the best games he’s ever played against the Knicks in the 1st half. He started off the game with a 3, and would hit another 3 and two drives in the early going for 10 first-quarter points.

Jalen Brunson meanwhile, led the Knicks early — intent on getting to the rim and hitting his short jumper that he had consistently missed in the prior game.

Jalen Brunson can score the ball in so many ways but he makes himself even tougher with the use of solid fundamentals,” noted NBA Analyst Ross Kreines. “Great use of a shot fake, pivot foot and then finishes. Keep your defender at your mercy.”

Boston was playing the same kind of intense blitzing defense that Philly had sent at him the prior game, but was able to operate around it and score. Brunson hit two 3’s and scored 13 points in the 1st quarter with several assists, but also several turnovers as Boston packed the paint against him.

Boston took a 30-26 lead into the 2nd quarter.

2. Knicks End the Half Well

Miles McBride led the Knicks second team early in the 2nd with a pullup, an offensive rebound and bucket inside, a 3, and a drive to make it a 50-46 game with 4:33 left.

But Jaylen Brown continued to go nuts for Boston — scoring 10 points in the last 7 minutes of the half on drives and runners and give-and-go’s with Porzingis.

Payton Pritchard and Derrick White hurt the Knicks too and when Porzingis hit an alley oop drive-and-1 off a Jaylen Brown pass, Boston was up by 10 points with 3:26 left in the half.

Hartenstein, Hart, Achiuwa

But the Knicks hung tough:

  • Isaiah Hartenstein — who played a good game down low — blocking a Porzingis shot causing him to get T-d up, Brunson hitting the technical free throw — then Brunson hitting a pullup and a 3 to pull NY to within 4.
  • Josh Hart was playing phenomenal Defense, coming out of nowhere for rebounds, and pushing the ball on offense. His offensive rebound and drive off a Precious Achiuwa pass-back kept NY within 4,
  • and then a Precious Achiuwa block of a Jaylen Brown drive and Josh Hart drive made it 62-58 at the half.

3. Boston Rained 3’s in 3rd

The 3rd quarter was war as both teams tried to take control of the game. Despite the Knicks good defense, Boston kept hitting shots — especially 3’s.

Derrick White hit a deuce and a 3 early in the period, then Porzingis started to hit straight-away, no-hesitation 3’s.

Josh Hart hit a 3 for NY and Brunson hit a drive-and-1 and NY was down 67-66 off Hartenstein free throws with 8:46 left when the sky fell:

  • Porzingis hit a straight-away, no-hesitation 3,
  • Tatum hit a pullup 3,
  • Brown hit a 3 — and Boston was up 10.

Boston went on another 10-0 run a few minutes later, starting with another Porzingis straight-away, no-hesitation 3, a Jrue Holiday 3, and drives by Tatum and Brown.

When Porzingis and Tatum hit back-to-back 3’s with just over a minute left in the quarter, Boston was up 20, at 97-77.

4. Knicks Dogged Comeback

The Knicks were undeterred.

  • Brunson came back with a 3 with 1:22 left in the 3rd,
  • the Knicks D forced Porzingis into an offensive foul,
  • Josh Hart flew in from nowwhere to grab an offensive rebound off an Alec Burks miss — feeding Precious Achiuwa for a dunk, and
  • Brunson made free throws off a drive with 4 seconds left in the quarter to pull NY to within 13.

And more of the same to start the 4th — Josh Hart with a drive, an Alec Burks runner, and a Bogan Bogndanovic jumper and NY was within 9 at 99-90.

5. Boston Gets Key Rebounds — Finish Off Knicks with Run

And then came the key play with 8:47 left:

  • Tatum missed a 3, but Payton Pritchard got a serendipity offensive rebound,
  • Brown missed a 3, but Al Horford grabbed the offensive rebound,
  • Horford missed inside but grabbed his own rebound,
  • Horford missed again inside but again put the ball back up and serendipity – it hit the top of the backboard and came down and went in.

Hart then turned the ball over trying to push it up court, Holiday missed a shot off Great Knicks defense, but Brunson was intercepted on a pass and Brown made a layup and Boston had back momentum and a 13-pt lead.

The Knicks got stuck on 90 points from the 9:17-left mark to the 4:03 mark — Alec Burks missed all 3 shots he took, and Brunson, Hart, and McBride also missed. That allowed Boston to go on a 10-0 run to take a 19-pt lead — when Donte DiVincenzo finally broke the schneid with a 3 but game was over by then.


  • Jalen Brunson played great — tremendous Defense all night drawing charges, and schooled Jrue Holiday on offense; Brunson finished with 34 pts on 12-25 shooting (4-9 from 3; 6-6 in free throws) with 9 assists and a steal.
  • Josh Hart was phenomenal — everywhere on Defense — defending Porzingis at times and keeping him out of the lane — and flying out of nowhere to grab important rebounds. Hart had 16 pts on 6-10 shooting (2-5 from 4) with 7 rebound and 6 assists.
  • Donte DiVincenzo had a tough assignment guarding Jaylen Brown, who was red hot and is bigger than DiVincenzo by several inches. At one point in the 3rd quarter, Brown backed DiVincenzo down underneath before hitting a turnaround — then made a “too small” sign as he went down the court. DiVincenzo played him even more intensely next time down — drawing a foul. In general, DiVincenzo and the Knicks played Brown better defensively in the 2nd half — as Brown had 20 at the half and finished with 30. DiVincenzo had 12 points on 4-12 shooting (4-8 from 3) — several of his runners rimmed out.
  • Precious Achiuwa played well — 8 pts and 9 rebounds.
  • Miles McBride was tremendous — 11 pts on 5-7 shooting in 16 minutes and Great D.
  • Isaiah Hartenstein played well in 24 minutes — good to see him get more and more minutes after the injury; last game he only played 11 minutes.
  • Jericho Sims played well in 14 minutes — quick feet on D.
  • Alec Burks did some good things but overall shot poorly — 3-11 (1-7 from 3) for 7 pts.

The Boxscore

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