On November 21, 2018, the New York Knicks—a conglomeration of young upstarts and forgotten veterans—took on the Eastern Conference powerhouse Boston Celtics. And the Knicks won.
Let’s talk about it. Trey Burke was a coldblooded killer tonight.
He tossed up some questionable shots in the beginning of the game, but soon, they all started to fall. A mid-range shot makes analysts cringe in today’s NBA, but somehow Burke manages to make the least efficient shot one of the surest things in the game.
One of his crossover’s did Al Horford so dirty it should have been censored. Not only that, but he contributed dynamic passing, finishing with 11 assists, and not just to former classmate Tim Hardaway Jr. With Allonzo Trier in the backcourt, Burke managed to open the 2 guard up to a few nice possessions. Furthermore, the 6-1 Burke pulled down six boards.
He stuffed the stat sheet with a 29-11-6 performance and put the team on his back by being a stellar teammate.
The Knicks began with the Mudiay-Hardaway-Hezonja-Vonleh-Kanter lineup they employed previously. Starting Mario Hezonja seemed like a mistake, and I doubt anyone can rationally feel any differently now. He scored once in the first two minutes, and did not score for the rest of the game. However, as impotent as Hezonja is, the Knicks secured a nice start with Noah Vonleh scoring seven of the Knicks first 10 points.
Emmanuel Mudiay and Burke provided a nice lift in the first quarter as well. Starting center Mitchell Robinson’s activity early on threw a wrench into the works of whatever machinations Boston had, as he created havoc early in the second. Trier’s buzzer-beating three was the dagger the team needed to cap off a phenomenal half of basketball.
It may be an apparition, but the Knicks played well on defense, at least for the first half.
The Knicks held the Celtics to just one three-pointer in the first half of the game. One. And that was hit in the first quarter. Although they eventually let up, the Knicks held the Celtics three point percentage down to 30.3 percent, and an overall field goal percentage of 39.2. Frank Ntilikina, the Knicks’ best perimeter defender, was largely responsible. He found himself guarding across positions, pestering Jayson Tatum, Kyrie Irving, and sometimes even defending Mitchell Robinson’s son, Marcus Morris.
On that note, Robinson lived inside of Morris’ head, much like when he plays the other Morris brother, Markieff. His physicality and Go-Go Gadget arms are (understandably) alarming. Robinson swatted six blocks in 16 minutes and terrorized the Celtics whenever they were foolish enough to head for the win.
Together, Ntilikina and Robinson largely shut down crucial parts of the Celtics offense, but the entire team must be given credit for the collective effort. They outscored the Celtics in points pff turnovers 17-5, although the Knicks turnover total was 17 itself. Even Mudiay’s late-game on-ball defense shut down a possible Celtics comeback. Tatum shot 4-of-12, Irving, 9-for-25, and a floundering Jaylen Brown shot 4-of-10 to end the night.
Those are pretty dismal numbers that can’t just be brushed off to the funk the Celtics have been in.
The Knicks stand at 5-14. If this game is any indication, tanking or not, they’ll stand to win a few more due to chemistry, tough defense, and a group of winners on the roster who refuse to lay down when the game is on the line.