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RJ Barrett after edging Celtics in OT: “We played together, we played hard, we held our own”

Are we sure Randle shouldn’t be an All-Star starter in place of Tatum? Questions, questions...

New York Knicks v Boston Celtics Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Feels good to be on the winning side of things, doesn’t it?

The New York Knicks (27-23) defeated the Boston Celtics 120-117 in OT on the road and are now sitting just 0.5 games behind the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference standings, while still in possession of the No. 7 seed.

Boston (35-15), the best team in the NBA as of this writing, could do nothing but lose a game for the third consecutive time having won their prior nine matchups in a row getting all the way back to Jan. 5 when they started to build that monster run.

The Celtics got the better of New York the first time they met this season but the Knicks tied the series at one win apiece on Thursday. The final two meetings will take place on Feb. 27 and Mar. 5 after the All-Star break.

Jayson Tatum might have been named an ASG starter, but Julius Randle manhandled him on Thursday on his way to finishing with 37 points, nine rebounds, and the game-clinching freebies in extra time.

“We can beat anybody. We can lose to anybody.” Randle said. “It’s a super talented, very balanced league. We can see how special we can be on a night-to-night basis if we come in with the right focus.”

Tatum came close to JR in getting 35 points himself, but it wasn’t meant to be an occasion for celebration for him or the Leprechauns.

Because it was the Knicks playing, there had to be some—added—drama to the whole affair. That’s why New York got to lead by 13 in the fourth only to see that advantage vanish with the Knicks scoring just four points in the final five-plus minutes of the fourth period.

Though Boston nearly pulled off a game-winning comeback, Randle never doubted his partners in crime. “We’ve been in those type of situations all year, so I feel like we’re getting more and more comfortable in [them],” said the forward.

RJ Barrett hit a very saucy three-point shot in the final seconds of the game to help New York go up one, 116-115 already in the OT. “I didn’t have a good shooting night, but I was ready to take that shot,” Barrett said.

“We held our own,” added Barrett. “We played together and we played hard. We got a good result.”

Jaylen Brown followed that up with a layup flipping the score in Boston’s favor. Randle wrapped New York’s win by hitting back-to-back free-throw attempts in the ensuing possession with Brown missing his two chances from the charity stripe on the next possession. Barrett extended the lead by going two-for-two himself with just five seconds left to play, and Jalen Brunson blocked a last-gasp three-point jumper from Malcolm Brogdon to seal the deal.

Brunson sent kudos to coach Tom Thibodeau after the game, saying that he “puts us in positions where we can succeed,” adding that all Knicks are “sacrificing every day,” and “just trying to figure out ways to win and keep stacking wins and not be complacent in how we do it.”

”We just gotta keep getting better that way,” Brunson finished.

The Knicks' point guard scored 29 points and Barrett contributed 19. Immanuel Quickley, back to his über-sixth-man role, scored 17 points on a fantastic 7-of-12 shooting night in which he went 2-of-3 from beyond the arc.

Most importantly, Jericho Sims finally had a dominating outing on the boards pulling down 14 rebounds, four of them offensive, in 36 minutes starting at the five. Isaiah Hartenstein grabbed six on relief duties (17 minutes) while Miles McBride stole a game-high three rocks.

“I think for all players, I think the more times you go through it the better you get at everything. And so we’re building some continuity,” Tom Thibodeau said. Speaking about Brunson’s impressive tenure in the Big Apple, Thibs thinks “[Brunson] has become more familiar with his teammates, his teammates more familiar with him,” and he acknowledged that “bringing Jalen in, I think has really helped.”

Thibodeau went on to describe the importance of Brunson to the team, reasoning that the addition of the PG to the roster “has allowed Julius to play off the ball more and that’s where we can take advantage of all the different things that he can do.”

Brunson’s 29 points and Randle’s 37 helped them jump into the top-5 most prolific scorers of the month with tallies of 368 and 352 points scored in January respectively. In case you wondered and just for shits and giggles, nobody is even remotely close (Nikola Vucevic is second with 156) to Randle’s rebounds (183) from Jan. 1 through Thursday.

It was the 6,000th game in franchise history for the Celtics. When all was said and done, it also was the 2,452 loss registered in their books.

The Knicks have won 15 matchups on the road now, only behind Boston (17) and Brooklyn (16) on that front. Coincidentally, New York just beat the former while taking on the latter (again away from MSG) on Saturday.

Let’s keep it going.