The Boston Celtics finished off their regular season with a hard-fought 96-92 loss to the New York Knicks. With the C’s locked into the 7 seed, there wasn’t anything for them to play for, and they rested their key players as a result. That left all the minutes in this game for the reserves, and they actual made a contest out of this against a Knicks team trying to lock up the 4 seed. Five players scored in double figures, with Jabari Parker and Tremont Waters going for 18 and 17 points respectively.
The Celtics would go into halftime trailing by 15, but they actually won the first quarter before bombing the second quarter. They only managed to score 15 points as a team, and really struggled to find answers on the offensive end. Fortunately, the Knicks weren’t really having much success scoring today too, so it didn’t end up turning into a blowout in the first half. Romeo Langford led the way in the first half with 9 points, with a number of other guys chipping in behind him as well.
The Celtics would get their mojo back in the third quarter, with Jabari Parker and Grant Williams leading the charge. The two combined for 17 of the Celtics 26 points in the frame, and had the hot hand for most of the frame. They would win the quarter by three points before making a frantic charge back into the game in the fourth quarter.
The lead would balloon back out to 17 points in the fourth quarter before the Celtics made a furious rally that they nearly pulled off. They went on a 15-0 run midway through the fourth, largely due to the Knicks inability to hit any sort of shot, cutting the deficit to two. Tremont Waters took over the quarter, scoring 13 points and nearly brought the Celtics back on his own. The Celtics would bring the game within a point with two minutes left, but failed to score another point the rest of the way, allowing the Knicks to hang on for the win.
Despite the loss, there’s a lot of positive takeaways from what we saw from the second unit today. They were pretty solid defensively, which was in part to New York’s own struggles, but it’s honestly the best Boston has looked defensively for some time now. Guys like Waters, Langford, and Aaron Nesmith bring a different intensity to the defensive side that has been lacking for most of the season, and it was great to see the team look locked in on the defensive side of things for once this season. Luke Kornet and Tacko Fall both had three blocks on the afternoon, which goes to show how their presence in the interior can impact how the perimeter guys play too.
Offensively, there were some really good showings and really bad showings. Payton Pritchard labored through a 2/10 shooting day, while Carson Edwards wasn’t much better shooting 4/13. Aaron Nesmith failed to really impact the game, as he went 1/6 from the field and only managed two points. Kornet was solid defensively, but he continues to look lost shooting threes, as he had a couple of wide open corner threes that could have tied the game that he missed. It’s reasonable to expect Pritchard and Nesmith to bounce back as the play-in tournament rears it’s head on Tuesday, but some guys may have earned themselves some more minutes today in the event they don’t.
Let’s start with Waters since he orchestrated this comeback. He absolutely took the game over in the fourth quarter, not just with his scoring, but in every area of the game. Despite being an undersized guard, he managed to haul in five rebounds and snatch two steals, while also dishing out five assists. Waters has looked really solid in his last couple of outings, and may have made a case for more minutes with Pritchard struggling today. Jabari Parker did a really good job at attacking the rim in this one, and he should be able to crack the rotation, as his scoring potential is far greater than someone like Semi Ojeleye. Grant Williams had a really solid all around game too, while Romeo Langford was easily the best player in black and green during the first half.
With the Washington Wizards beating the Charlotte Hornets today, that means the Celtics will square off against the Wizards in their play-in game on Tuesday. This has to be a worse case scenario as the Wizards are one of the hottest teams in the league right now. Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal are one of the most dynamic backcourts in the league, and they will give the Celtics fits on Tuesday. Hopefully the starters are well rested, because their task on Tuesday just got a lot more difficult now that they will face off against the Wizards.
Click on the images below to shop for new Celtics gear!