Too Much Firepower
Without RJ Barrett, the Knicks played tough but were eventually overwhelmed by a dominant Celtics team.
Good Morning, and fair warning if you missed last night’s game: the final score is not indicative of how competitive this game was.
Game 10: Knicks 98, Celtics 114
The pregame excitement was tampered down when it was revealed about an hour before tip off that RJ Barrett was suffering from migraines and would be a game time decision. He ended up sitting out, forcing Josh Hart back into the starting lineup, and off we went…
In a New York minute…
For about 23 minutes, this was as good as the Knicks have looked all season. Playing with pace on offense and urgency on defense, the Knicks used a hot start from Jalen Brunson, a methodical performance from Julius Randle and some timely threes to take an eight-point lead with 1:33 to go in the half. That’s when some sloppy transition defense to end the second quarter gave way to a 9-2 Celtics run before halftime. Unfortunately, the pain was just getting started. With increased intensity on D that included several full-court presses, Boston grinded New York’s offense to a halt while the C’s offense heated up behind the arc. After being down 10 several times, the Knicks briefly cut the deficit to three on a Brunson triple with 8:20 to go, but there was too much Jayson Tatum to overcome. Boston’s MVP candidate finished with 17 points in the final frame, with one shot more impressive than the last, and the Celtics pulled away in the final minutes.
1. Knicks’ offense got a flat tire and they didn’t have a spare (ball-handler). The biggest question about this game is whether RJ Barrett’s presence would have made a difference.
In the first half, no RJ wasn’t that much of an issue. Josh Hart hit 2-of-3 from downtown and played more than passable defense on Tatum. Between Brunson getting in gear early and Julius looking masterful replacing RJ as the starter-with-the-subs, New York’s offense wasn’t quite good, but it was good enough. It certainly helped that they hit 7-of-19 from deep.
The second half was where Barrett’s absence was really felt. There were more than a few possessions where New York barely got the ball across half-court without committing an eight-second violation. Once they got there, it was often a grind. Boston’s length and switchability stymied an offense that always prefers to poke and prod before firing away, resulting in several possessions that went nowhere:
At least with RJ in uniform, the Knicks have a consistent downhill threat that can get something going in a positive direction. He also has a much quicker trigger than Hart, and smart teams (like Boston) pray on that hesitancy.
Ultimately, with or without RJ, last night revealed the most fatal flaw in New York’s offense, even more than their occasionally inconsistent 3-point shooting. When a defense as good as Boston’s really locks in, the default of the Knicks’ primary options is universally to dribble more and pass & move less. There are no preternaturally gifted passers or ball movers on this roster. That can only take them so far.