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Celtics 103, Knicks 101: “...not just yet”


NBA: Boston Celtics at New York Knicks Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

December 7th, 1941 was “a day which will live in infamy.” December 7th, 1946 was, too. That was the first time the Knicks played the Boston Celtics. New York won that day. Sometimes it feels like that was the last time they bested Beantown. Saturday was one of those times.

The Knicks fought valiantly last night, as they did two nights ago in Brooklyn, but fell short by a bucket, 103-101, as they did in Brooklyn. This game looked like it could get off the rails early. Boston’s offense featured ball movement and player movement; New York’s featured five guys content to take the first open shot they found. After four minutes the Celts were on pace to win 168-60. David Fizdale subbed in Kevin Knox and Allonzo Trier. Then this happened.

Then this happened.

Then this happened.

It almost got worse.

If you can’t live in just times, at least let them be interesting, and the Knicks quickly made things interesting. A 10-0 run sparked by Trier brought interesting back.

Knox’s injury opened the door for the first Damyean Dotson sighting of the season; D-Dot hit two threes in the last minute of the half, so naturally on New York’s final possession Tim Hardaway Jr. held the ball forever before jacking a three and a prayer with the shot-clock winding down. Still, even with Knox done for the night (and longer; more on that to come), the Knicks got 17 first-half points from Trier and Dotson and trailed by just two.

The third quarter foreshadowed what kind of night it’d be: the two teams were tied at 50, 52, 54, 56, 58, 62, 64, and 65.

It felt for a while like one of those nights where the rim has a lid on it whenever your team has a chance to take the lead, but a Marcus Morris technical foul led to a Hardaway free throw that gave New York its first lead of the game, 65-64. Terry Rozier put Boston up nine early in the fourth, but Enes Kanter hit a three, and soon Hardaway hit a couple, and then it was on.

Kyrie Irving did not look like Kyrie Irving most of the night, but in close games guys like him only have to look like guys like him some of the time, and he looked more like Kyrie late, giving the Celtics some breathing room. Then Lance Thomas hit free throws and from behind the arc, and we reached endgame. And that’s when we were reminded why the Celtics are so easy to hate.

Two Tatum free throws made it 103-100, and then Fizdale called New York’s last timeout and called for a play he wishes he could have back.

In the end intent matters less than outcome, and Burke getting fouled on a desperation three was an outcome even Brad Stevens would have been proud to draw up:

But Burke missed the first free throw, and after hitting the second the Knicks couldn’t rebound the third, and thus the infamy abides.


  • The news on Knox was not the worst:

Make sure you’re taking care of (y)our boy, Puma.

  • 17 and 15 for Kanter despite foul trouble most of the night.
  • In the first quarter, Lance Thomas, guarded by Al Horford, drove to the basket and tried to go up-and-under and switch to his off hand. Horford blocking the shot was a mercy killing; it had zero shot at going in. Kanter got the deflection and clanged a hook shot off the front rim. On the Knicks’ next possession, Thomas missed a wide-open corner three. This is the long way of saying I can’t wait till Knox wins a starting spot on this team.
  • Kanter is the first Knick to open a season with three double-doubles since Zach Randolph.
  • 15 points and seven free throw attempts for Trier tonight. That’s good. This is doubleplus good:

Less good: Trier’s box score for all categories besides shooting and scoring were binary code: all 1s and 0s.

  • “Allonzo Trier is so cute” my 6-year-old said. She’s totally crushing on him. She used to think Cole Aldrich was cute, so this is growth I can support.
  • Mitchell Robinson seemed to continue struggling with his ankle tonight. He undoubtedly struggled when guarding anyone away from the basket. The Celtics, specifically Morris, took advantage of this.
  • Boston from the line: 28 of 33. New York: 17 of 27.
  • 38 points off the bench for the Knicks. Nice.
  • The Knicks have lost two games in the final seconds, thanks to Caris LeVert and Tatum. Frank Ntilikina was not guarding Caris LeVert down the stretch Friday night nor Tatum last night, after opening the game guarding Tatum. No Frank in crunch time tonight at all. Whaddya say, Coach?

For what it’s worth, Ntilikina was a -22 tonight.

  • This is becoming a welcome nightly staple for Frank:
  • Ntilkina did not look for his shot at all in this game. A little surprising, after his second-half Brooklyn outburst.
  • Noah Vonleh was beasting on the boards; he had 10 right around the 10:00 mark of the 2nd.
  • Vonleh is very not afraid of bringing the ball upcourt after rebounds and I am all for it. He also shows an eagerness — perhaps too much, at times — to drive and kick to teammates behind the arc. Three assists tonight.
  • If I were a veteran on this team, I’d have a hard time with Trier’s usage rate. He really does shoot like the ball has an expiration date on it.
  • Ron Baker hit a lay-up to make it 68-67. On the next possession Baker was pushing up the floor with a chance for the Knicks to take the lead. The Celtic defense was pretty spread out. Most any other NBA guard would have dribbled up to the arc, seen that space to work with, and tried to make a play. Baker dribbled right over to THJ to hand it off to him. This is a problem I have with Ron’s game. Too often on offense he looks like the kid in the park who’s just happy to play with the older kids, so he defers to everybody. Knowing your limitations is better than not, but when you’re an NBA guard and your limitations include “shooting” and “doing something with the ball in your hands,” that deference plays right into the defense’s hands.
  • Props to Baker for keeping on keeping on.

For real: anyone who writes about sports has been publicly blasted by somebody. Sometimes the best you can put back in the world is a simple “thank you.”

  • Aron Baynes injured his hamstring in the first half and did not return.
  • Marcus Smart is someone I will always wish ends up on the Knicks. You ever have one of those dudes? Not stars, but rotation players you just have a thing for?
  • Clyde Frazier often calls an and-one a “conventional three,” but given the prominence of the three-point shot in the game today, I don’t know if we can call and-ones “conventional” anymore.
  • Ever wonder what Kristaps Porzingis is up these days?

Quoth Return of the Frank: “...not just yet.” The Knicks next game is Monday in Milwaukee. After that they’re in Miami and then home for Golden State, so if hanging around .500 is your kink, def tune in Monday. Things might go from “not just yet” to “When do the ping pong balls drop?” pretty quickly.