Celtics hang on to beat Knicks in season opener
The new look Boston Celtics opened their season on the road at Madison Square Garden against a defensive minded New York Knicks team The late game struggles that plagued them last season almost reared their ugly head again late in this one, but the C’s offseason additions helped carry the team to a 108-104 win.
Kristaps Porzingis made his impact felt immediately on both ends hitting early 3’s and impacting the game at the rim. Porzingis was on fire to start the game with 15 points in the first quarter alone. He was on fire in the first going 5-of-8 from the field and 3-of-5 from three-point range doing very little to dampen all the preseason hype around his addition to the team.
Other than Porzingis the Celtics defense was the story early on as they held the Knicks to 18 points in the first quarter. Jrue Holiday made his impact felt defensively early on with two blocks before halftime, Porzingis also had his defensive impact felt with three blocks before halftime.
The Celtics did have some struggles late in the second quarter as the Knicks charged back into the game and Jayson Tatum and Porzingis cooled off after a hot start. The Celtics escaped the first half with 51-46 lead after the Knicks went 5/10 from the line. Jayson Tatum found his groove again late in the second quarter finishing the half with 19 points 6 rebounds and 2 assists.
It was the Tatum show early in the second half as he was dominant to start the third quarter extending the Celtics lead to 10 before a quick Tom Thibodeau time out. The Knicks rebounded with a 10-0 run to cut the lead to one with 5:48 left in the third. The Celtics bench struggled in the first half but Al Horford stepped up in the third quarter hitting multiple 3’s to extend the Celtics’ lead back to eight points with 2:20 left in the third. Derrick White stepped up late in the third and a buzzer beating layup by Porzingis gave the Celtics a 9 points lead 82-73 at the end of the third quarter.
The Celtics struggled to start the fourth quarter. With Porzingis in foul trouble, the Knicks got their first lead of the night 86-84 after a Josh Hart 3 pointer with 8:56 left in the fourth. Tatum kept the Celtics close as the Knicks tried to extend the lead but a Tatum free throw for his 34th point of the night tied the game with five minutes to go.
After that though things went south for the Celtics – and Jaylen Brown. Brown’s untimely turnover issues from last season were a trend again late in the fourth quarter. Brown had two turnovers that led directly to Knicks buckets one even turned into a 4 point play that gave the Knicks a 100-93 lead with 4:10 to go in the fourth. The Knicks free throw struggles hurt them all night missing 12 free throws in a close game.
Porzingis and Tatum put on a show in the season debut, Tatum finished with 34 points, 11, rebounds, and four assists and Porzingis had 30 points, eight rebounds, and five blocks including a late deep three to give the Celtics a four point lead. Payton Pritchard iced the game late with a couple of free throws and the Celtics escape a close one in New York to win their first game of the season.
— Kristaps Porzingis is pretty good at basketball
— Jayson Tatum will be a top 3 MVP candidate
— Derrick White and Jrue Holiday will battle for all defensive first team
— Al Horford could be in consideration for Sixth Man of the Year
— Celtics bench needs some work