Knicks’ defense blitzed in ugly 133-123 road loss to the Celtics

NBA: New York Knicks at Boston Celtics
Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

The Knicks dropped their second-straight game, coming against the Celtics on the road as they continue their early-season tear. Following their loss to the Bucks on the road in the In-Season Tournament quarterfinals, the Knicks struggled to bounce back against another Eastern Conference contender. The Celtics outclassed the Knicks and staved off a late-game comeback, as Boston’s offense put up 133 points against a stout New York defense. It drops the Knicks to 12-9 on the season, and while there were some encouraging performances, it wasn’t enough in the 133-123 loss.

In a big matchup against a top contender in the conference, the Knicks fell flat as they have now clinched a season series loss against the Celtics.

Celtics Steam the Knicks To Hand The Knicks Their Third Loss of Season Series

NBA: New York Knicks at Boston Celtics
Dec 8, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; New York Knicks guard RJ Barrett (9) shoots against the Boston Celtics during the first half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

The Celtics were on the attack early, scoring 33 points in the first quarter and putting the Knicks on their backfoot, although they held their own with 32. It was the second quarter where the Celtics took complete control of the contest, as they put up 41 points, outscoring New York by 11 points as Derick White led the charge with a 30-point performance, hitting six of his 10 attempts from downtown. Boston has become the class of the NBA this season, as they’ve been one of the best teams on both sides of the ball.

New York had the lowest points per game allowed (107.5) coming into tonight’s contest, but the Celtics still mustered 133 points on the Knicks, draining 19 threes on great efficiency (40.4%), although New York shot a similar percentage from beyond the arc (40.5%). It just felt as if the Celtics could get whatever they wanted all game on offense, and they were firing on all cylinders throughout the game. Their lowest-scoring quarter came in the fourth (24), the only quarter in which the Knicks (26) outscored Boston.

RJ Barrett would go for 23 points on great efficiency (56.2%), a much-needed showing on offense after hitting a tough skid that saw his True Shooting percentage fall below the league average. With two makes on five attempts from three, he held his own against an aforementioned defense that ranks toward the top of the league by most defensive metrics. Jalen Brunson would also go for 23 points, although he failed to hit one of his five attempts from three, and Julius Randle had his own 20-point performance, hitting three of his four attempts from deep.

NBA: New York Knicks at Boston Celtics
Dec 8, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Celtics guard Derrick White (9) shoots over New York Knicks guard Donte DiVincenzo (0) during the first half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

One of the brightest spots of the game came from the performance of the Knicks bench, as Isiah Hartenstein went off for 16 rebounds and five points, shooting 50% from the field. Josh Hart added six points, six rebounds, and seven assists on the night as well, but it would be the newly-formed bench duo of Immanuel Quickley and Quentin Grimes who would step up on offense. Quickley was +15 on the court and scored 17 points with 40/37/100 shooting splits on the night, and recently-benched Grimes had 13 points with excellent efficiency (50%) and three makes from three.

Perhaps Grimes is better suited for a bench role, although the defense certainly suffered in this loss, as the Knicks will re-group and take on the Toronto Raptors at Madison Square Garden on Monday.