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Knicks Dominate Celtics Physically in Likely Playoff Dress Rehearsal 118-109

BOSTON — Joe Mazzulla sent one short message to the Celtics following a sleepy effort where Boston rode 42.1% three-point shooting to a win despite 22 Trail Blazers offensive rebounds last weekend. Box out.

It didn’t resonate.

Boston had fallen to 23rd in defensive rebounding over five games to begin an April closing stretch where the Celtics had nothing left to play for. They mixed in rest in the previous games, but suited up all six players questionable entering Wednesday’s game and the entirety of their top-six rotation. It didn’t help stop an onslaught of New York offensive rebounds, 17 in total, that flowed into 39 points and six threes for Jalen Brunson. The Knicks won, 118-109.

Payton Pritchard provided a momentary burst before the first quarter ended, grabbing Jayson Tatum’s miss and placing it back in before Tatum blocked Miles McBride at the buzzer on the other end. New York had already scored following four of their six offensive rebounds. The Celtics turned it over four times in the opening five minutes and twice watched Isaiah Hartenstein haul in Knicks misses and score. OG Anunoby grabbed the third and twice ran for dunks in transition following his own steal and Kristaps Porzingis losing the ball in the post. Pritchard entered the game trying to cross mid-court only for McBride to poke the ball loose from him.

The spark briefly flowed into the second before back-to-back threes by Bojan Bogdanovic and Jalen Brunson, with Derrick White and Jrue Holiday in their face, sparking a 10-0 run while Boston shot 0-for-8 over nearly five minutes out of the Celtics’ timeout. They went on to lead by 21 at halftime, winning the second quarter, 37-19. Boston had scored on four straight possessions to begin the frame, but the Knicks continued to torture their defense and rebounding in the other direction to stay ahead after the Celtics briefly tied the game at 32. Mazzulla and head official Sean Corbin shared words at one point, with Tatum and Jaylen Brown both called for offensive fouls while an apparent back court no-call led to another Anunoby three. This one wide open in the corner. Brunson snuck in one more mid-range shot before the halftime buzzer, a sign of more to come.

Brunson opened the third by pulling-up and hitting back-to-back threes, starting 9-for-15 from the field with 24 points. The Knicks’ 20-point lead remained through the end of the quarter as Brunson added a mid-range make and trailed Donte DiVincenzo after his steal on Brown, catching and knocking down his fifth three in nine tries while Porzingis and Holiday tried to chase down DiVincenzo at the rim. The Celtics shot 5-for-15 during that stretch, Porzingis flashing some frustration with the officiating before Brown spun past Brunson and DiVincenzo, reached the rim and missed a layup. The Knicks challenged a Brunson foul successfully, hitting Brown with another offensive foul, while Porzingis’ full court running dunk and Tatum’s second-chance three point finish inside barely left dents in the lead. Robinson flushed another put-back, Brunson hit another three and raced to the rim for a layup, vaulting the Knicks ahead by 29.

Josh Hart rolled a layup off his fingertips one possession later, sending the Celtics’ starters to the bench before the third quarter concluded. And likely for good ahead of the playoffs that begin in just over one week.



Bobby Manning

Boston Celtics beat reporter for CLNS Media and host of the Garden Report Celtics Post Game Show. NBA national columnist for Boston Sports Journal. Contributor to SB Nation's CelticsBlog. Host of the Dome Theory Sports and Culture Podcast on CLNS. Syracuse University 2020.

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