Another night, another close, tough loss for the Knicks.
For the second time in two nights the Knicks (25-27) lost by just two points, showing their inability to close out games and play clutch basketball. This time, they lost 101-99 against the Boston Celtics (26-26). The Celtics move to the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference–right above the Knicks who have lost two in a row and are 1-5 in their last six games. Despite the disappointing finish, it was a great night for RJ Barrett who lead his team in scoring with 29 points. For Boston, Jaylen Brown had a superb game with a 32-point, 10-rebound double-double.
Back-and-Forth First Half…
When the first half ended, the Celtics only lead the Knicks by one point: 47-46. This close score was an accurate representation of a first half that saw multiple lead changes and holds. While the Celtics held the lead longer than the Knicks, they were never able to extend their lead past seven points. The Knicks kept themselves in the game despite a mediocre half from one of their most important players: Julius Randle.
In about 17 minutes on the court, Randle only managed seven points by going 3-10 and 1-3 from behind the arch. On top of that, he had three turnovers. Even though he was underperforming, all was not lost thanks to a superb half from Barrett. He scored 16 points, going 5-6 and a perfect 3-3 from behind the arch. In 15 minutes, he almost matched his game total of 22 points from Monday night’s loss against the Nets.
On the other side of the court, Brown was keeping things alive for Boston. Even though he led his team with 13 points, he only went 5-14 and 2-5. As a team, the Celtics had a 38.3 FG% which was only just behind the Knicks at 41%. Additionally, it was the Knicks who also led in 3P%; they had 50% compared to 41.2%.
…But the Knicks Can’t Close it Out
After out-scoring the Celtics by one in the second quarter, the Knicks continued their strong form in the third. They out-scored their opponents 27-23 and entered the home stretch with a three-point lead. In fact, they led for most of the final quarter–until the very end.
Part of the blame falls on Randle, who yet again faded towards the end. For all the good he has done, Knicks’ fans have been critical of Randle during crunch time and tonight’s performance didn’t help. He had a solid third quarter with 13 points after scoring seven for the entirety of the first half. However, he only managed two points in the final quarter. Barrett was tasked with most of the work once again, getting 11 points in that final frame. Alec Burks made a nice three-pointer but he was only 1-4 from behind the arch during that time.
For the Celtics, it was Marcus Smart who came through in the end. He had 14 points in the fourth quarter, hitting two three-pointers and sinking all six of his free throws. He finished the game with 17 points–meaning he was the definition of clutch in this game. He came alive at the perfect time.
Upcoming Games for the Knicks
The Knicks have a day off to travel before starting a three-game homestand. On Friday, they play the Grizzlies before back-to-back games on Sunday and Monday; Sunday’s game is against the Raptors while Monday’s game is against the Lakers. Hopefully, The Mecca will be able to rejuvenate the Knicks. If not, they will find themselves falling further and further down the standings. For a team with playoff aspirations, they need to find their footing and quickly. If they can start playing some more clutch basketball, things may start to look back up for them.