It wasn’t pretty, but the Boston Celtics snuck by the New York Knicks on Friday to grab their fourth consecutive win.
After handling the Knicks with ease less than one week ago, Boston found itself in a back-and-forth battle with its Atlantic Division foe. Similar to Saturday, it was Kemba Walker who led the way. But it was Jayson Tatum who finished the job with a game-winning bucket as time dwindled down.
Walker (33 points), Tatum (24), Gordon Hayward (13) and Grant Williams (10) all finished in double figures for Boston.
Ex-Celtic Marcus Morris Sr. led the way for New York with 29 points and nine rebounds.
Here’s how it all went down:
PG: Kemba Walker
SG: Marcus Smart
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Gordon Hayward
C: Daniel Theis
STRUGGLING ON THE GLASS
Boston forced four turnovers in the game’s first four minutes, putting some immediate pressure on the Knicks.
Tatum opened the floor for Boston on the offensive end, using his improved court vision to toss some passes that his former self wouldn’t have been able to. His second assist stood out in particular, which partially was due to Theis’ strong finish.
But the Celtics got crushed on the glass early, with New York winning the battle on the boards 12-5 through nine minutes, including six offensive rebounds. Boston finished the quarter with 16 total and eight of the offensive variety.
Williams led the Celtics with a game-high eight first-quarter points off the bench.
SCRATCHING AND CLAWING
The Knicks pushed their offensive rebounding advantage to 11-1 early in the second, but they found themselves locked at 34 halfway through the quarter.
It wasn’t pretty, but Boston was able to even the playing field with some nice ball movement, collecting nine assists on its first 13 field goals.
Tatum had a game-high 13 points at the break. He collected three of Boston’s four first-half 3-pointers as part of an ugly 4-of-16 shooting clip from deep.
The Celtics trailed 50-49 after 24 minutes, shooting 42.1 percent from the floor.
LOOKING FOR A RHYTHM
Boston used a quick 9-0 run to take a five-point lead four minutes into the quarter thanks to some quality stops. Good things happen with this team when it lets its defense dictate its offense, and such was the case early in the third.
The Knicks didn’t go away, though, as they took advantage of some poor shot selection on behalf of the Celtics.
Boston went small to close the quarter, with Hayward playing the four.
Walker’s third-quarter scoring burst helped keep the Celtics take a one-point lead into the fourth, as the point guard had 21 points through three.
FIGHT TO THE FINISH
Back and forth we went through the final frame, as the score was locked at 82 with 6:53 left.
Similar to Wednesday’s win over the Milwaukee Bucks, Walker managed to get to the free throw line quite a bit down the stretch, notching 10-plus attempts for the second straight game. But the Knicks refused to go away.
Walker continued to provide the scoring punch, recording his third straight 30-point performance by the two-minute mark of the fourth quarter.
His teammates were very solid down the stretch, namely Hayward and Tatum, who were a combined 13-for-27 from the floor with 90 seconds remaining.
After Walker’s 13th and 14th free throws pushed the Celtics’ lead to three with less than 30 seconds left, a broken play put the ball in Morris’ hands, who knocked down a game-tying 3-pointer in front of his former fans.
Boston called timeout with 4.7 seconds left, and managed to get the ball into Tatum’s hands. With 1.3 seconds remaining, the third-year guard knocked down a game-winning, stepback jumper to give the Celtics their fourth consecutive win.
PLAY OF THE GAME
Since you’ve already seen the game-winner … We’re not really sure how Theis got this one to go.
The Celtics face the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday, with tip-off from Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse set for 7 p.m. ET.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images