C’s Look to Heighten Urgency After Loss to Knicks

BOSTON – The struggling New York Knicks were desperate for a win Wednesday night as they took on the Boston Celtics. And they sure played like it.

After losing 11 of its previous 13 games, New York emerged onto the TD Garden court with a hunger and an energy level that the Celtics could not match.

Despite missing three big men – Kristaps Porzingis, Joakim Noah and Lance Thomas – from their rotation, a small-ball Knicks lineup managed to out-rebound the Celtics 57-33. They battled for every loose ball, hit timely shots, and hustled for 48 minutes without wavering, resulting in a well deserved, 117-106 win on the road.

“They lost a lot of games in a row, so we should’ve known they’d come out with a bit of fire,” Jae Crowder said following the game.

“It’s crazy that they played small but still out-rebounded us by [24]. They just wanted it more. It wasn’t about matchups. It wasn’t about anything like that. It was just about what team wanted it more, and those guys wanted it more.”

One guy who certainly wanted it more was Derrick Rose, who scored 12 of his season-high tying 30 points during the fourth quarter. He put on a vintage D-Rose performance on the offensive end, with mid-range jumpers and flashy drives, galore.

On top of that, the Knicks point guard tallied his first double-figure rebounding effort in more than six years, as he corralled 10 boards. By comparison, Boston’s four guards corralled just seven total rebounds.

“He got it going,” said Celtics big man Al Horford, who tied a career high with 10 assists during the loss. “His finishing at the rim mixed with his mid-range makes him tough. I think people overlook him because he’s not at the level that he was when he was MVP. But he can still play, and he reminded us tonight.”

Boston was also reminded Wednesday night that they can’t take any opponent for granted. Isaiah Thomas said that the C’s need to come out with a much different approach next time they hit the court, and they must act like every opponent they face “is the best team in the league.”

Jae Crowder agreed with Thomas, saying that Wednesday’s loss needs to serve as a lesson to the team.

“We’re going to try to use it as a learning curve because we can’t settle and be comfortable,” said Crowder. “Each team is more than capable of beating us; we just have to play the right way, play hard, play a little nasty. And we never did (tonight).”

The Celtics have periodically experienced lapses of energy this season, much like they did versus New York. The only difference is that normally their explosive offense will bail them out during the fourth quarter.

Boston entered Wednesday’s contest averaging a league-leading 29.0 points per fourth quarter. Against the Knicks, however, it could not find a spark down the stretch and was outscored 29-23 during the final frame.

The Celtics know they can’t rely on their fourth-quarter offense every night, and Thomas went so far to refer to it as “fools gold.” He says the team needs to start focusing more energy on the defensive end because he knows the offense won’t bail the team out during every close game.

“The offense (usually) plays so well that it makes up for us not making stops,” said Thomas, who logged a game-high 39 points. “But we know what type of team we need to be, and we need to focus on the defensive end and let our offense just flow. When we don’t get stops and we’re not making plays on the offense end, nine times out of ten you’re going to lose that game.”

Despite not being able to match New York’s energy, Boston still managed to keep the game close. For much of the second half the C’s were just one basket away from making it a one-possession game, but they couldn’t get over the hump.

“It was very frustrating,” said rookie Jaylen Brown, who tallied 12 points and four rebounds off the bench. “I think we underestimated our opponent a little bit. They came out and got going, got in a rhythm, and at that point it was too late.”

“We’re a better team than that,” he added. “Even though we played bad, we still had a lot of opportunities to win this ball game. We just gotta suck it up and come back to work tomorrow.”

That’s exactly the right attitude to come away with after experiencing a loss like Boston did Wednesday night. It was a result that certainly opened the Celtics’ eyes, and hopefully it impels them to play with a heightened sense of urgency the next time they take the court.