Knicks frustrate Jayson Tatum, Celtics to grab solo 5th

Jayson Tatum, New York Knicks

The red-hot New York Knicks continued their rise, taking down league leader Boston Celtics on Monday night.

Their sharp defense pierced the Celtics’ heart — Jayson Tatum — leading to a 109-94 rousing win, their sixth straight overall, and a season-high fifth straight at home as they seized solo fifth in the East.

The Knicks held the Celtics to a season-low 15 points in the opening quarter that set the tone for the rout.

Already without Jaylen Brown due to personal reasons, the Celtics were further decimated when Tatum got ejected with 3:14 left and the Knicks leading by 14.

Frustrated all night long, Tatum, who is averaging 30.4 points per game, was held down to 14 points that matched his second-lowest scoring game of the season. The Knicks foiled the Celtics star, who missed 12 of 18 shots.

Julius Randle had his signature hot start, dropping 12 of his 23 points in the first quarter as the Knicks took a 27-15 lead and never looked back.

Their hot start spilled over the second quarter as they twice took a 20-point lead.

Immanuel Quickley came off the bench and matched Randle’s 23 points. Josh Hart added 12 points with key baskets everytime the Celtics tried to mount a comeback.

The Knicks bench outscored the Celtics’ second unit by 15 points, which covered the game’s difference.

Mitchell Robinson (10 points, 13 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocks) also outclassed his Celtics counterpart, Robert Williams III (6 points, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks). Robinson had his third straight double-double since his return from a thumb injury.

The Knicks starting center had a key putback after a long stoppage that threatened to kill their momentum.

Brunson was assessed with a technical foul for an inadvertent kick to Marcus Smart, who fouled him first that was caught on a long video review by the game officials.

After Tatum made the technical free throw that cut the Knicks’ lead to 100-89, Robinson responded with a layup off Randle’s miss with 5:13 to go.

It was all the Knicks needed to keep the Celtics at bay.

Moments later, Tatum was ejected following a Hart corner three-pointer that pushed the Knicks lead to 14.

Jalen Brunson (4-12) and RJ Barrett (4-14) struggled offensively but still came up 17 and 10 points, respectively.

The 36-27 Knicks have now beaten three (Celtics, 76ers and Cavaliers) of the Eastern Conference’s top four teams twice this season.

They have a good shot at solidifying their hold of the fifth seed on Wednesday when they host their crosstown rival, Brooklyn Nets, who will face the Milwaukee Bucks Tuesday night before their crucial New York rivalry game. A win could give them the separation they needed against the Nets (34-26) and move them closer to fourth place Cavaliers (39-25).

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

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