Playing on the second night of a back-to-back, without Kemba Walker, and after losing to the Philadelphia 76ers the night before, the Boston Celtics finally showed some resolve. Jaylen Brown led the C’s with 32 points and 10 rebounds, Jayson Tatum added 25 and 10 himself, and the Celtics once again moved back to .500 with a 101-99 win on Wednesday night over the New York Knicks in Boston.
As has so often been the case recently, Brown carried Boston in the first quarter to help them jump out to a two-point lead after 12 minutes. He scored 12 points in the opening frame, while the Celtics as a team only scored 21 in total. Included in those 12 points was this nice dunk, with Tatum driving and feeding Brown on a cut for a powerful slam.
After a back and forth second quarter, the C’s managed to hold onto a slim 47-46 lead going into the half, meaning the game would have to be decided in the last 24 minutes. And in that third quarter, it was once again Jaylen Brown scoring 12 points for the Celtics while Jayson Tatum scored 9, combining for 21 of Boston’s 23 points. And the only other bucket, a Robert Williams alley-oop, was assisted by Jaylen Brown.
For any talk there has been this year about how those two could be doing more to make this team win games, it’s clear that the Celtics would have gotten blown out this game if the Jays hadn’t controlled the third quarter. Brown especially was great in this game, as he continually bailed out failed offensive possessions with corner 3’s or drives to the rim on his way to his game-high 32 points.
Even though Boston went into the fourth trailing by 3, their two young stars had kept them close enough to mount the comeback. Down the stretch, no player played a bigger role than Marcus Smart. After scoring only 3 points in the first three quarters, he tallied 14 in the final 12 minutes, and none were bigger than the 3-pointer he splashed off a Jayson Tatum assist to give the C’s a 96-93 lead that they never relinquished. As much as Smart has struggled in the fourth quarter, and with his shot overall this season, games like this show why he is still such a valuable member of this Celtics team.
This was a game that Boston had to win, and they found a way to do it. Playing without Kemba Walker or Evan Fournier, who has once again found himself stuck in the Health and Safety Protocols, against the team directly above them in the standings, this is the type of win that could push the C’s into a little run. At this point, we know that this group’s record is a fair reflection of what they’ve deserved this year, but if they could put together any kind of streak to avoid the play-in tournament, it would be a huge advantage to their chances of doing anything in the postseason.
Next up for Boston is a date with the league-worst Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night. Minnesota is not good, so this is another game that Boston really must win. This team can no longer afford silly losses, and a loss to a horrible Timberwolves team would surely count as an unacceptable defeat. That game will tip off at 7:30 once again, with Boston looking to climb back above .500 and maybe even jump up the East standings with a win. As mediocre as this team has been this year, they’re only one game out of fourth place, which speaks to the weakness of the Eastern Conference after its top three teams, as well as the fact that this team could still make a run if they continue to play the right way and stay healthy.
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