Celtics rebound over Knicks, win 101-99

NBA: New York Knicks at Boston Celtics
Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Against one of the NBA’s best defenses, Boston struggled with turnovers but was able to hold on

In a pivotal game to determine the Eastern Conference seeding, the 25-26 Celtics hosted the 25-26 New York Knicks after a turnover-filled loss to the Philadelphia 76ers the night before.

A predictably low-scoring affair with the Knicks in town, the Celtics were able to squeak by with a 101-99 win. Just like the night before, the Celtics couldn’t take care of the basketball, but this time, they were able to win in spite of it.

The Knicks came into the game sporting the fourth-best defensive rating in the NBA and the best points allowed per game in the NBA.

Romeo Langford hit the starting lineup for the third time in his career with the absence of Evan Fournier and Kemba Walker. Langford took the starting two guard role with Marcus Smart at the point.

The first two starts, against Orlando and Washington in his rookie season, were 28 and 30 minute stints, respectively. Against the Knicks, Langford played 25 minutes. He started slowly, fouling RJ Barrett on the Knicks’ first possession, then turning it over on Boston’s second. He ended the game with six points and five rebounds.

Tristan Thompson also returned to the lineup for the Celtics after a lengthy absence in the NBA’s Health and Safety Protocols. He saw 22 minutes of action and recorded seven points, eight rebounds and three blocks. His impact was evident, reflected by a team-high +24.

Boston’s offense started slow, scoring just six points in the first five minutes of action against one of the league’s best defensive units.

The Celtics’ defense was able to keep them in the game. Despite a low-scoring first quarter, they still held a three-point lead at the end of the first quarter, with Jaylen Brown leading the team in points (12). Brown finished with a game-high 32.

Robert Williams III was active and energized in the first, scoring five points and grabbing four offensive rebounds.

It wasn’t just Williams terrorizing the offensive glass, the entire Celtics team was creating second chances with offensive rebounds. Langford showed hustle in his third career start, grabbing four offensive rebounds. Boston finished with 16 offensive rebounds.

The activity on the offensive glass kept Boston in the game in the first half. With a one-point lead at halftime, Boston had a massive 13-2 offensive rebound advantage.

Tristan Thompson showed out in his first game back, boasting a team-best +10 plus minus and pitching in on the glass with six rebounds in the first half alone.

Brown was matched up defensively against Julius Randle multiple times, and early in the game, Randle struggled to score like a 23 points per game scorer he is.

Jayson Tatum also struggled offensively following two straight low-20s scoring performances. He led the team in turnovers and struggled to find consistency with his jump shot. Tatum did make some noise on a one-handed tomahawk over Taj Gibson. Tatum finished with 25 points.

Following an offensively-improved second quarter, Boston stumbled out of halftime and let the Knicks take a five-point lead early. As he’d done multiple times this season, Tatum started heating up in the third quarter. A 10-0 run, fueled by Tatum, helped Boston reclaim their lead.

But, Randle had a run of his own in him. He scored 13 points in the third, getting himself going with multiple fast-break scoring chances. Tatum and the Celtics’ turnover struggles helped New York enter the fourth quarter with a three-point lead. Randle rebounded from a rough start, and ended the game with 22 points.

The Knicks had outshot Boston from deep throughout the night. Barrett was in the zone from deep, hitting open looks following drive-and-kick action. The sophomore from Duke hit 6-6 of his threes, and led the Knicks in scoring with 29 points.

The bench scoring was another reason New York was able to hang around, despite getting out rebounded and turning the ball over almost as much as Boston did. The Knicks bench outscored Boston’s bench 27-15.

Boston and New York were jostling for positioning, trying to find an edge over the other in the fourth. The Celtic defense was keeping the Knicks at arm’s length, but the turnovers made sure it wasn’t anymore than arm’s length.

With just under a minute remaining, Barrett hit his fifth straight 3-pointer to tie the game, but Smart had a three to answer on the other end. Alec Burks rushed a three against Smart, then Brown was able to put the game out of reach at last with a free throw – then block – on another rushed Burks shot.

Boston has one day off, then returns to the parquet to face the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday, April 9 at 7:30 p.m.

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