The Boston Celtics just brought extra meaning to the phrase, “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.”
One game after a disappointing loss to the Orlando Magic, the Celtics got off to a brutal start Tuesday against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden, failing to make a single 3-pointer in the first half. But Boston slowly found its rhythm as the game went on and outscored the Knicks 52-42 over the final two quarters to earn a 97-89 road win.
Boston got solid production from unlikely areas, as Tyler Zeller (season-high 16 points, 10 rebounds) and Evan Turner (14 points, 10 rebounds) both recorded double-doubles off the bench. Isaiah Thomas led the Celtics with 20 points and eight assists, while Jae Crowder added 16 points.
The C’s also contained the duo of Carmelo Anthony (16 points on 4 of 16 shooting) and Kristaps Porzingis (10 points on 4 of 11 shooting) to earn their sixth win in seven games and improve to 28-22.
Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Amir Johnson, Jared Sullinger
MINIMIZING THE DAMAGE
The Celtics trailed by one point after the first quarter, but it could have been a lot worse.
The C’s struggled mightily in the game’s first 12 minutes, shooting just 33 percent from the field and going 0 for 8 from 3-point range. So how did they stay afloat? A bizarre five-point possession thanks to an unfortunate call on Anthony certainly helped, as did Boston getting to the line nine times and knocking down seven free throws.
To say Boston struggled from distance in the first half would be an understatement.
The Celtics didn’t make a single 3-pointer through two quarters despite 13 attempts. Yet as they had in the first quarter, the C’s kept pace with the Knicks in the second thanks in part to some aggressive defense; they tallied four steals and forced five Knicks turnovers in the frame.
Thomas also helped the cause, pouring in 13 first-half points despite missing all four of his 3-point attempts before the break.
THAT’S MORE LIKE IT
The Celtics finally broke out of their funk a bit in the third quarter.
Crowder hit Boston’s first 3-pointer less than four minutes into the frame as part of an improved offensive effort that saw the Celtics record nine assists on 11 made field goals after assisting on just six of their 17 field goals in the first half.
Boston closed the quarter on a 10-3 run that featured two hoops from Zeller to take a five-point lead into the fourth quarter.
TURNING IT ON
Turner did his best closer impression in the fourth quarter.
The Celtics swingman took over down the stretch, drilling three jumpers in a span of less than two minutes to help keep the Knicks at bay.
A few possessions later, Turner grabbed an offensive board and made a nifty pass to Thomas, who missed the layup but got a nice follow from Zeller:
Robin Lopez was absolutely dominant on the offensive glass.
The Knicks big man tallied nine offensive rebounds in the first half and finished with 13 total rebounds, 11 of which were offensive. His efforts were part of a huge effort on the boards for New York, as the club out-rebounded the C’s 50-45.
PLAY OF THE NIGHT
Sasha Vujacic thought he had an easy layup early in the fourth quarter, but Avery Bradley had other plans:
The Celtics will return to Boston on Wednesday to take on the Detroit Pistons, who at 26-23 are just behind the C’s in the Eastern Conference standings. Tipoff at TD Garden is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET.
Thumbnail photo via Adam Hunger/USA TODAY Sports Images