A night after falling just short against the NBA-best Golden State Warriors, the shorthanded Boston Celtics hosted a team with a similarly ravaged roster in the New York Knicks.
A hot start had the fans at TD Garden feeling pretty good about things. The Green led 62-47 at the half. But the Knicks piled up 41 points in the third quarter, making a game of it and forcing the Celtics to put up or shut up down the stretch. Josh Richardson (a game-high 27 points) chose the former as his team pulled out a 114-107 win.
New York made a 17-2 run to start the second half, with Kemba Walker spontaneously combusting for 17 points of his own in the frame. The visitors led by two heading into the fourth, but Boston got their act together just in time to pull out the win. Robert Williams (15 points, eight rebounds) did some of the little things in support of Richardson to help seal the victory.
Richardson was joined by Jayson Tatum with 25 points and Jaylen Brown with 23. Both were decidedly less impressive in the second half than they were in the first. Frustration due to missed shots in the third quarter leaked into Boston’s effort on the other end, and coach Ime Udoka said he was “livid” with the third quarter defense.
Boston shot 50 percent in the opening quarter to take a 32-18 lead. They hit 10 threes in the first half en route to a comfortable halftime margin. Payton Pritchard (16 points) briefly caught fire in the second quarter to contribute to that lead.
New York was paced by old friend Evan Fournier with a game-high 32 points. Walker poured in 29 for the contest, while Julius Randle needed 19 shots for his 20 points.
Al Horford and Grant Williams, among others, missed the game due to health and safety protocols. Dennis Schröder was out with a non-COVID illness, while Romeo Langford sat due to a neck injury.
Next up on the home stand: the Philadelphia 76ers roll into Boston for a Monday night tilt. The Celtics held Philly to 87 points in a one-point win earlier this month. Tipoff is 7:30 p.m. on 98.5 The Sports Hub.
Sean Sylver can be heard on 98.5 The Sports Hub. Talk hoops with him on Twitter @TheSylverFox.