Photo Credit: AP Photo/Michael Dwyer
Trey Burke gave the Knicks what they needed in Boston
The New York Knicks were riding a six-game losing streak as they traveled to Boston to face the Celtics. Not many would have predicted the Knicks to win the game, but with the Celtics struggling, the Knicks picked up a much-needed win. Usually, in a game of this magnitude, a strong performance is needed from an unlikely player to lead the way. Tim Hardaway Jr. leads the Knicks in scoring, but it was Trey Burke who rose to the occasion.
Burke dropped 29 points to lead the Knicks to an unlikely 117-109 win over the Celtics. In a game where the Knicks needed extra firepower from someone, Burke provided it in all aspects. Not only was Burke making buckets, but he was also setting up his teammates for easy buckets. He piled up 11 assists. Also, Burke played superb defense throughout the game. His superstar counterpart, Kyrie Irving, only finished with 22 points on 9-of-25 shooting on the court.
Great defense led the Knicks to victory
Overall, the Knicks played great defense as a team, holding the Celtics to 39.2% shooting, which is impressive. There were several key moments which led to the Knicks snatching victory in Boston. Those moments mainly came in the first half when the Knicks opened up a surprising 26-point lead that sent shockwaves through TD Garden.
Knicks take advantage of the Celtics slow start
Lately, the Celtics have been notorious for starting games slow. Knowing this information, the Knicks bust through the gates with high energy and firing on all cylinders. The first unit played well, but the second unit increased the Knicks early lead. Once Burke entered the game with Frank Ntilikina and Kevin Knox, the Knicks played with renewed energy. All three players combined for an 8-0 run to give the Knicks a 26-14 lead.
While the Knicks were balling, Celtics fans became impatient with their team. Their impatience was on full display when Gordon Hayward grabbed a rebound off of Burke’s miss with less than 10 seconds remaining. As a team, the Celtics showed no urgency to get a shot off before the buzzer. Celtics fans became annoyed and sighed loudly to urge their team on. Unfortunately, their loud sighs led to Hayward putting up a late jumper which was blocked by Ntilikina.
In the second quarter, the Knicks continued to pile the pressure on the Celtics. After Marcus Morris made two free throws to cut the Celtics deficit to six, the Knicks went on a 27-7 run to open up a 57-31 lead. Plenty of Knicks contributed to this piece of offensive and defensive mastery, but Burke was the main star of the show. He scored 11 of the Knicks 27 points, and overall, he scored 18 points in the first half. Eventually, the Celtics picked up some steam and finished the second quarter on a 16-6 run, but at halftime, they still trailed by 16.
In the third, the Knicks hold on to their double-digit advantage
Going into the second half, the Knicks were in prime position for a smooth sailing victory. But anyone with common sense knows the words “smooth” and “victory” are never to be used in the same sentence when talking about the Knicks. In typical Knicks fashion, the players’ palms became sweaty late, but this time, they were able to seal the win.
Throughout the third quarter, the Knicks were able to maintain a double-digit lead. Every time it seemed like the Celtics would make a run, the Knicks made timely baskets. One of those timely baskets came near the buzzer when Allonzo Trier nailed a three to give the Knicks an 84-69 advantage going into the fourth quarter.
The Celtics mount a comeback in the fourth
After Jaylen Brown made one of two free throws to open the fourth, Knox made two consecutive threes to push the Knicks to a 90-70 lead. What transpired afterward was a spirited Celtics comeback. Led by Al Horford and Irving, the Celtics went on a 14-4 run to cut the Knicks lead to ten. During that run, a clear path foul was called on Mitchell Robinson after Irving stole the ball from Hardaway Jr. Irving made both of his free throws, then Horford followed with a three to swing the momentum in the Celtics favor.
After the debacle by Hardaway Jr. and Robinson, the Knicks continued to stave off any Celtics comeback. Late in the game, the Celtics went on an 8-0 run to cut the Knicks lead further. Morris responded to Burke’s basket with a three to ignite the run and Hayward knocked down a three to bring the Celtics within four. After Hayward’s basket, David Fizdale called a timeout with 1:05 remaining.
Burke propels the Knicks to a huge win
Coming out the timeout, it was clear as day that Fizdale would put the ball in Burke’s hands. Surely enough, Burke delivered with a clutch mid-range jumper to give the Knicks a 112-106 lead with 50.2 seconds remaining. Later, Burke’s number was called again after Horford and Brown combined to make three free throws to bring the Celtics within three. With less than twenty seconds remaining, Burke sized up Jayson Tatum and hit him with a step-back three to seal the win for the Knicks.
New York Knicks stats
Luckily, Hardaway Jr. had his Michigan teammate Burke to pick up the slack. Hardaway Jr. finished with 21 points on 8-of-19 shooting with 7 turnovers. Noah Vonleh had a great homecoming. The Boston-native contributed with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Knox had a solid game, he scored 11 points and grabbed 9 rebounds off the bench. Also, Kanter continues to rack up double-doubles. He had a solid 10 points and 10 rebounds.
David Fizdale may have found his optimal starting lineup
Finally, it seems like Fizdale has found a great balance on offense and defense in his starting lineup. In the last two games, the Knicks have started strongly, which has led to more opportunity to win. Also, Fizdale continues to play players who are making an impact on the game. Even though Mario Hezonja and Emmanuel Mudiay started, they didn’t play crunch time minutes due to the play of Burke and Ntilikina.
If the Knicks can keep this up, who knows? Maybe the Knicks will steer clear of the road to Zion after all.