On Thursday, The New York Knicks (19-20) and The Boston Celtics (18-21) squared off for a rocky game that had an epic finish.
By the end of a game that included a career-high 41 points for Evan Fournier, Immanuel Quickley’s most mature performance yet, and Julius Randle channeling fan-anger into buckets (and Robert Williams’s breadbasket), the scene was set for RJ Barrett’s 25-foot, banked-in buzzer-beater. Despite a 4-of-15 shooting performance, the Maple Mamba delivered in the clutch to win the game, 108-105. The fans cheered so loud they nearly cracked the Garden’s foundation. The city rejoiced.
Tonight the teams meet in Boston for a rematch. Will the triumphant Knicks win their third straight? Or will the Celtics rebound after two gut-wrenching losses and exact their revenge upon our heroes?
I’m on day three of wearing my Barrett jersey. Tip-off’s at 7:30, leprechauns.
The Knicks WERE 1-229 when trailing by 25+ points in a game over the last 25 seasons (came back from a 26-point deficit against the Bucks on March 14, 2004). pic.twitter.com/1531oL1AJ3— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 7, 2022
On Tuesday, the Knicks outscored the Celts 61-42 in the second half. The Celts folded down the stretch like…well, like New York typically does. Point guard Marcus Smart scored 14 points and added five assists in a mixed performance. Coach Ime Udoka paired him with Dennis Schröder late in the game, and Smart was less effective when shifted to shooting guard. Stick to that game plan, Ime!
Jaylen Brown had 16 points and added seven rebounds. Brown, who is often clutch for Boston, disappeared in Thursday’s final frame, taking only one shot in the fourth quarter. In fact, he attempted 14 shots total in the game, which was down from his average of 19. Some Celtics fans are banging the Blow-It-Up drum because Brown and Tatum still struggle to coexist. Q’s for the Comments: What would you offer for Brown? Would you go anywhere near a Schröder deal?
The Knicks shooting guard, however, is a Celtics killer. Fournier scored 41 points in 42 minutes, finished the night 15-of-25 from the field, and tied the Knicks’ record of 10 threes (on 14 attempts). Unfortunately, Fournier is listed as questionable for tonight’s game, due to a bruised thigh. Let’s hope it isn’t serious.
Evan Fournier has now scored 105 points against Boston alone in just three games.— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) January 7, 2022
He now has 514 total points scored this season.
That means 20.4% of Fournier’s entire 2021-2022 scoring has come in three games against the Celtics.
Jayson Tatum played well, totaling 36 points, six rebounds, and nine assists. His 18-footer knotted the game at 105 apiece with 2.2 seconds left, but it was also he who unsuccessfully defended Barrett’s rapturous game-ender. Up until that dagger, Barrett had a sub-par night offensively and finished with 13 points. But those last three points…magic.
I noticed that Tatum easily eluded Quentin Grimes for three or four scores, which is probably why the rookie only played six minutes. Q’s defense should be tighter in this one. The team needs more than a missed three-point attempt from him.
Al Horford scored seven points and grabbed four boards in 31 minutes. Horford heaved a few bricks Thursday, going 3-of-8 from the field and 1-of-6 from deep. Al can’t contain a steamed-up Randle, either. And, boy, was Randle steamed.
.@J30_RANDLE GOT US HYPE.#NBAALLSTAR pic.twitter.com/KtpZ23nScW— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) January 7, 2022
Robert Williams III swatted seven blocks, scored six points, and gobbled up nine rebounds against New York. He was a -12, despite outplaying Mitchell Robinson, who put up seven points and snatched four boards. The Time Lord is as bouncy as Mitch but smaller, and I predict the lovable Cajun will redeem himself this evening.
This week, the Celtics lost back-to-back games at the wire. They fell to the San Antonio Spurs, 99-97, in Boston on Wednesday and collapsed in New York on Thursday. If pride and coach Ime cannot motivate their team to come out blazing for tonight’s tilt, maybe Boston really is doomed to a blow-up after all.
The Knicks thrilled us at the end of Thursday’s game, but first had to overcome a 25-point deficit and lousy first half. A ho-hum performance won’t cut it in this rematch. If Fournier plays, RJ stills feels heroic, IQ continues to be the Energizer Bunny, and Julius has equal hatred for Boston boo-birds, look for the Knicks to pull off another magic trick in the final minute.
TD Garden. Saturday. 7:30 PM. Keep the streak alive, Knicks!