It’s Jaylen Brown’s birthday tonight. He probably told everyone he wants, like, the complete works of Michel Foucalt or something, but what he clearly wants is for his Boston Celtics squad to whoop the New York Knicks’ asses up and down the Garden floor, so later he can celebrate his 21st nameday with glorious, drunken victory.
He didn’t need to worry. Not only did the Celtics win this one in a blowout, but Brown also led the game in scoring with an efficiently scored 23 points. He contributed excitement on both ends of the floor alongside Jayson Tatum, who was right behind his sophomore running buddy with 22.
THE GAME FLOW
Both teams started this one slow. It was only 4-4 after three full minutes of play, albeit with both Boston field goals excitingly scored–a putback dunk by Tatum, followed soon by a Kyrie Irving steal turned transition layup. And about halfway through the quarter, the birthday man joined the party by stripping Courtney Lee and bolting across court for a 100 percent disrespectful reverse smash.
Not a lot to write home about otherwise, though: The Knicks seemed reasonably capable of evading Celtics defenders, so the Cs weren’t that far ahead–18-12 with about 2:45 left in the frame. None of the Knickerbockers’ starters are particularly good shooters outside of Kristaps Porzingis and the comically overpaid Tim Hardaway Jr., so the biggest threats would likely be Porzingis and Enes Kanter getting into the post. (That said, all of this is contingent on me analyzing individual players; New York has a unique ability to fall into disarray on the floor no matter who they consist of or who coaches them.)
The talent disparity between Boston and NY became considerably clearer as Q1 faded into Q2: Knicks fouled Kyrie on trey attempts, and a few early mistakes by Jaylen caused their defenders to ignore him later–ignorance he repaid by making multiple threes and successfully drove to the cup. (He led all scorers with 13 at Q1’s end.) Even with an ensemble largely consisting of second-unit dudes, the Cs’ offense fell into its well-oiled rhythms and soon enough, the lead jumped to 15, and then 20. I wouldn’t call their defensive performance quite as peerless, but they cooked so intensely on the other end it didn’t matter, and it tightened up a great deal in Q2.
It’s not breaking news to say the Knicks are bad. They plan to be bad and come back to the drawing board next season, to enjoy the last year of traditional lottery rules. But with the justifiably celebrated Porzingis having an awful night (1 of 8 for 12.5 percent FGs in the first half for 2 points, plus a paltry 3 rebounds), they were downright atrocious. All things being equal, Ramon Sessions may be their best non-Porzingis player, which is very bad for them. They were lambs to the slaughter for our heroes, down by 22 at the half (54-32); their only slight advantage being on the boards, mostly from Kanter’s putbacks.
The second half began much as the first ended, Boston comfortably in front despite some fast and loose shooting that didn’t go well. On New York’s side, Kanter kept them alive with his acuity for offensive rebounds turned putbacks, but nothing else worked. Kristaps’ night only got worse–he’d end the night shooting 3-14 for 12 points. His shots either missed outright or caught blockage from Tatum and Daniel Theis. All the Knicks managed to do throughout the entire third, when you get right down to it, was occasionally bring themselves within 15 or slightly less, only to fall right back into another 17- or 20-plus-point deficit.
Of the Celtics starters, only Tatum came out to start Q4, with Brad Stevens using his team’s immense cushion to give tick to Theis, Terry Rozier, Shane Larkin and Semi Ojeleye. Rozier didn’t score much but functioned well as a second-unit facilitator in these and previous minutes. Theis showed again that he’s every bit the consummate pro Boston hoped for when signing him, while Larkin made impactful plays that didn’t make the stat sheet.
Despite the Celtics’ lead still quite large with half of Q4 remaining, the starters (minus Baynes) returned for a while to definitively ice the game, which they did: Al Horford’s mid-quarter trey and Irving’s bumblebee-float in for a hook shot weren’t chronological daggers, but basically served that function. Theis’ running dunk and then some Guerschon Yabusele minutes (and points!) for good measure, and the Cs took the W, a massive 110-89 beatdown.
THE HOT (AND NOT): [Note: I’m considering calling this “Reds and Pitinos,” albeit not that seriously.]
Hot (Reds): Jaylen, Jayson, Horford’s quiet excellence (13-13-5 plus a block, on 63 percent FGs), productive bench minutes from Theis, Rozier and Larkin.
Not (Pitinos): Kyrie’s 39 percent FG shooting (disguised by his 20 points, 9 earned at the line), turnovers (12, only 2 less than the Knicks), being outrebounded (albeit not by much, and exclusively due to Kanter’s empty-calorie boards).
GREEN FIRE: DUNKAPALOOZA EDITION
You know what the hell this one is:
But don’t sleep on Tatum:
And just for laughs, Theis’ completely undefended slam: