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Celtics 128, Knicks 100: “I didn’t need this”

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Duke hosts Yale Saturday.

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NBA: New York Knicks at Boston Celtics Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

You know who led the Knicks in plus/minus tonight? Frank Ntilikina, who didn’t play. That’s right: every Knick to appear during Boston’s 128-100 slow burn blowout finished with a minus. The only Celtic with a minus rating was Aron Baynes, who had to exit after two minutes with a left ankle sprain and didn’t return.

Many NBA games are like symphonies or games of chess: there’s phrasing and flow, sophistication and elegance, and a good deal of the audience’s joy comes from the chemical reaction between the process unfolding and the moment it all becomes clear. This game was like when you know you have a big poop coming, but it’s taking its sweet time, and it takes so long you almost think “Maybe this actually won’t be that big,” and then the dam breaks and yeah. Yeah. That was this.

Boston had nearly four times as many assists as turnovers. The Knicks did not, helping Boston to a season’s best output of fast-break points. People will tell you I like Marcus Smart too much. People are right. People will tell you I believe if Smart were on the 1994 Knicks instead of Greg Anthony, they win the title. People are right. I am too.

These teams entered as two of the worst first-quarter scoring teams in the league, so naturally they combined for 68. The Knicks went to the zone early. Celts were cool wit it. Interviewed during a first-half timeout, Fizdale said the Knicks weren’t closing out hard enough on Boston’s shooters.

Much of the first half was the Knicks hanging around, down five to eight points, and whenever it got to five and you said “Maybe they can win this g—” some Celtic would hit a three. In a way, these are the most unpleasant kind of losses to sit through. There’s juuuust enough room to hope, but never enough to believe.

One must imagine Sisyphus happy.

The third was more of the same.

The fourth offered no intrigue. No fake comeback. Keep running up that hill, Sisyphus. Knick fans got your back.

Notes:

  • Re: Ntilikina:

It’s exactly like “he’s out though.” In fact, him being out while Trey Burke is being out means Frank’s even more out than regular out.

  • Kyrie Irving looked like Kyrie again. I don’t know if he’s in better shape or what, but ever since he cut his hair he looks so much better. I love when any human grows out their hair, but Irving’s game was vintage Kyrie tonight.
  • Why Mario Hezonja or anybody ever rotates off Jayson Tatum to close out on Marcus Smart is maybe not a thing we’ll understand till we cross the veil from this life to the next.
  • I feel like Baynes gets hurt every time he plays the Knicks.
  • Noah Vonleh’s defense is getting me past “I’m cool if he’s back” to “Pro’ly definitely bring that guy back.”
  • Just keep doing your thing, Vonleh. Keep.
  • Vonleh wasn’t the only Knick to show out defending Tatum.
  • Vonleh and Hezonja weren’t the only Knicks to show out defending Tatum.
  • Truth be told, Tatum was 7-of-11 for 17 efficient points. Can’t trust a moving picture.
  • Can’t trust a moving picture, exhibit B:

That was a nice shot. The rest of the game Damyean Dotson shot 1-of-10. The rare off-night for son of Dot.

  • Two-pointers were the difference tonight. New York hit 34% of its threes, making 12; Boston hit 34% on 13 makes. New York made 16 of 20 free throws; Boston went 17 of 20. But on two-pointers the Knicks were just 24 of 56 (42%). The Celtics? 36 of 54 (67%).
  • Which happens first: Allonzo Trier goes an entire game without being called for an offensive foul after throwing an elbow into someone’s maw, or Trier attempts an end-of-quarter heave?
  • Mitchell Robinson loses one out of every two passes sent his way. Hardaway had him open on a breakaway oop and he just sorta repelled the ball, somehow. It’s like his hands are greased up. Get that man some Dr. J’s Hot Hands or calcium for strong bones or something. I don’t know.
  • Can anybody on this team block a shot down low besides Robinson? He leads the team at nearly 10%. Second is Vonleh, barely over 3%, Third is freaking Mudiay. Every time a Celtic got a pass or offensive rebound underneath, that shit was going in.
  • The me who fell in love with the Pat Riley Knicks can’t help but enjoy these moments.
  • Emmanuel Mudiay did not have a remarkable game. But he continued to look confident, a positive in its own right. There were glimpses of grandeur.
  • Luke Kornet and Robinson played together the last couple of minutes. I want to see that pairing more. I’ll pretend it’s because Kornet can function as a stand-in for Kristaps Porzingis and give us a rough draft of this idea we’re all brainstorming. But dude. Kornet and Robinson out there together is just cool.
  • Can we pass a rule to give red cards to players who foul teams that are obviously about to get out on the break? Trier had a nice fast-break throwdown nullified by what English Premier League sportscasters would label a “cynical” foul by Terry Rozier on Kevin Knox away from the ball.
  • On January 27, 1963, Marv Albert called his first-ever Knick game, a 123-100 loss to the Celtics. That night a forward named Gene Conley had 16 points and 20 rebounds in a losing effort. Conley was born in 1930. Tonight Albert called a game featuring Knox, born in 1999. A Knicks Mount Rushmore has to be Willis Reed, Walt Frazier, Patrick Ewing, Marv Albert, and over by the port-o-potties a sculpture of J.D. And The Straight Shot, forever frozen in time like Pompeii in their pomposity.
  • Meanwhile...

Quoth Melo’s Bucket Hat Collection: “I didn’t need this.” Next game is Saturday at home vs. the Nets. It may not be the game we need, but it’s the one we — actually, it’s not the game we “deserve,” either. It’s gonna be two bad teams missing their best players due to injury. That sucks. But it’s a winnable game, something this one never was. That’s cool.