Tatum’s Stellar Playmaking Not Enough as Knicks Rally Past C’s
Jayson Tatum did everything in his power to hold off a New York Knicks rally Thursday night at Madison Square Garden, only for his Boston Celtics to fall short in devastating fashion.
Boston built a 25-point lead in the first half, but it came crashing down after the break despite a 36-point, six-rebound, nine-assist, two-steal effort from their superstar wing. Evan Fournier led the Knicks with a career-high 41 points, and R.J. Barrett played the hero by knocking down a miraculous 3-pointer at the buzzer to give New York a 108-105 win.
Tatum was spectacular from both a scoring and playmaking standpoint, as he created more than half of his team’s points – 61 out of 108 – via the 36 that he poured into the scoring column and the 25 points that he assisted on.
He also created 13 of Boston’s 17 3-point makes, connecting on six of his own while assisting on seven others.
Tatum peaked during crunch time, scoring 11 consecutive points for the Celtics late in the fourth quarter and then knocking down the game-tying jumper with 1.5 seconds remaining.
He then did all he could to keep the Knicks from scoring on the other end of the court, defending Barrett on the final possession with suffocating pressure. But Barrett managed to overcome Tatum’s contest by banking home the winner off the glass.
Although Tatum was stellar from an individual standpoint, the team, as a whole, crumbled during the second half. New York started building momentum in the third quarter, the crowd got into it, pushing them along, and the Knicks ran through the Celtics like a runaway subway car through a plaster wall.
Rob Williams said the team needs to do a better job of staying poised when the opposition goes on a run, especially when playing in such a hostile environment.
“We just have to stay together,” said the fourth-year center, who logged six points, nine rebounds, two steals, and seven blocks. “At the end of the day, there’s five of us out there. The crowd was so loud that sometimes we couldn’t even hear coach (Ime Udoka). So I feel like with the players on the court we have to calm ourselves down - pull ourselves together.”
Not staying together in such scenarios has been a recurring issue for the team. They’ve now lost four games in which they led by at least 15 points, which is tied with New Orleans for the most such losses in the NBA, per ESPN Stats and Info.
“We get rattled a lot, especially when we’re facing adversity,” Williams said. “We just have to find it in ourselves - the grit and the fight - to just come together when something’s not going our way.”
Tatum is hopeful that he and his teammates can channel their frustration into something positive the next time they hit the court two days from now in a rematch against the Knicks at TD Garden.
“Funny enough, our next opponent is them, at home,” Tatum noted. “What better way to respond than playing a team you just lost to and gave up a lead in two days?”