Photo Credit: Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images
The New York Knicks suffered their second straight two-point loss in a 103-101 thriller at Madison Square Garden. Both teams battled and bought their A-game on defense. Unfortunately, for the Knicks, the Boston Celtics have a rising star named Jayson Tatum who is near impossible to stop.
Tatum put the nail in the coffin
With less than a minute remaining in the fourth quarter, Tatum drove through the lane and hammered it home to give Boston a four-point lead. Lance Thomas quickly responded with a 3-pointer at the other end to bring New York within one point of Boston. Afterward, madness ensues.
Tatum tried to hammer home another dunk but missed. Somehow, he recovered the loose ball, and Boston ran another play. Tatum received the ball in the post with Tim Hardaway Jr. all over him. Unfazed, Tatum rose up, fading away, over Hardaway Jr., and nailed the jumper to give Boston a 103-100 lead. For the second consecutive time, Hardaway Jr. gave up the game-winning jumper. In the last game, against the Brooklyn Nets, Hardaway Jr. was at fault. Tonight, against Boston, Hardaway Jr. couldn’t do anything about it.
On New York’s last possession, Tatum almost went from hero to zero with an ill-advised foul on Trey Burke, who tried to make a three-pointer from the MSG parking lot to tie the game. Burke missed the first free throw, made the second, then purposely missed the third. The ball ultimately fell into Al Horford‘s hands to end the game.
Tatum had a monster game. He finished with 24 points and 14 rebounds. Kyrie Irving and Marcus Morris also contributed with 16 points each. Hardaway Jr. led New York with 24 points. Enes Kanter notched his third consecutive double-double finishing with 17 points and 15 rebounds. Allonzo Trier also added to New York’s cause with 15 points off the bench.
Celtics came out the gate locked and loaded
In the beginning, it was all Boston. Brad Stevens must have given his players the motivational talk of the century with the way Boston attacked New York early. On defense, Boston locked down the Knicks like they stole something. All the Knicks could muster up in the first quarter was 18 points on 22.7% shooting. At one point, Boston had a 16-point lead, their largest lead of the game.
Knicks come roaring back in the second quarter
After a dismal first quarter, New York came back like roaring thunder to end the half. David Fizdale went into his bag of tricks and pulled out an unconventional lineup to get the Knicks back into the game. Ron Baker, Damyean Dotson, Noah Vonleh, Mario Hezonja, and Trier turned up the defensive pressure and together, they cut the Celtics lead to three.
Terry Rozier responded to New York’s run with two threes to help push Boston’s lead back up to ten. Temporarily, the momentum shifted back to Boston, but Dotson made sure Boston wouldn’t carry that momentum into halftime.
Dotson hasn’t gotten game time since the regular season started. His performance tonight will make sure that Fizdale uses him more in future games. He knocked down two consecutive threes to aid an 8-2 run to push the Knicks within two before halftime.
The key moment which defined the Knicks night
Midway through the fourth quarter, Morris made a 3-pointer to give the Celtics a 9-point lead. Boston looked prime to go on a run to seal the victory. In the past, that would have been the most likely outcome. This season, not so much. In typical New York fashion, the players banded together and fought back.
Trier knocked in two free throws and Kanter made a layup to cut the Knicks deficit to five. Irving followed up Kanter’s basket by making one of two free throws, then the iconic moment came. Hardaway Jr. nailed consecutive threes to tie the game at 89. After his game-tying basket, Hardaway Jr. roared at the crowd, and MSG was electric. That electricity that has been missing in recent years is slowly returning to the Mecca of basketball.
Even though the Knicks are losing at the moment, the effort the players have shown is extraordinary. With Fizdale at the helm, it seems like real Knicks basketball has come back to MSG.
Key Notes: Kevin Knox rolled his ankle in the first quarter. He is expected to be out two-four weeks.