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Celtics ride historic shooting night to a 133-118 victory

Boston traveled into New York on the second night of a back-to-back, after holding on for a 123-119 victory over the Chicago Bulls Saturday night. The Celtics entered the game at 5-3, sitting in a tie for third in the Eastern Conference. New York came in at 4-4 after grinding out a win over the depleted 76ers last night.

(Photo by Wendell Cruz- USA Today Sports)

Game Summary:

Boston got off to a scorching hot start, making 5 of their first 6 triples and jumping out to a 15-5 lead, forcing an early Knicks timeout. Less than 4 minutes into the game, 4 of the 5 Celtic starters had already dropped one in from long range. Al Horford sat out of tonight's contest for what is presumed to be load management for the 36 year old veteran. His absence pushed Blake Griffin into a starting role, his first of the year. Even with Horford in the lineup, Boston has struggled to rebound the ball on both sides of the floor so far this year. The same thing can not be said for New York, as they entered the game 3rd in the league in offensive rebounding. Boston's biggest challenge in this game was going to be keeping up on the glass. 7 minutes into the game, Boston had attempted 13 field goals, with 11 of them being three's. They started 6/11, but this form of offense looked stagnant and unsustainable. The Knicks got their first lead of the game thanks to a Derrick Rose bucket with 3 minutes left in the first quarter. Boston sharpshooter Sam Hauser would close out the quarter with back to back three-pointers to give Boston a 32-29 lead after one. Hauser's development into a key role player for this team has been fun to watch.

A 9-0 run to start the 2nd quarter pushed Boston's lead to 12 points. The offense seemed to be finding a bit of a rhythm, and was able to get some easy buckets in transition. Boston was picking apart a Knicks defense who is one of the best in the league. The Celtics weren't the only ones firing up 3's, as the Knicks had already attempted fifteen 3's a third of the way through the second quarter. Typically, this is how you play the Knicks. Pack the paint and force the 27th best three point shooting team in the league to beat you with their weakness. New York wasn't cooperating with that early, as they started 7/15 (47%) from distance. The Celtics rode Sam Hauser's hot hand to a 53-41 lead midway through the second quarter. Hauser's 14 early points already marked a career high for the second year man out of Virginia. The C’s caught a cold streak towards the end of the half, and New York took advantage. They cut the lead down to one point, at 59-58, before Jaylen Brown’s fourth and fifth three pointers of the game got Boston back on track. Both teams would trade buckets to end the half, and the Celtics went to the locker room with a 67-66 lead.

Team defense was still nowhere to be found early in the third quarter. The lazy defense could be attributed to both teams playing the second night of a back-to-back, but is still surprising considering the defensive reputation each team has. Midway through the third, Malcolm Brogdon knocked down Boston’s 17th three pointer of the game to push the lead to 85-80. At this point, New York already had a trio of 20 point scorers in Randle, Barrett, and Brunson. With 4 minutes left in the quarter, Jayson Tatum had only 8 shot attempts. Tatum wasn’t playing bad, but I would have liked to have seen a little more assertiveness from him, especially at the basket. The third quarter came to a close with a barrage of threes from Boston, as they made 21 through three quarters of play, an absurd number. The Celtics entered the fourth with a 101-96 lead.

To win this game, Boston needed to tighten up the screws on defense, and limit the turnovers. That got off to a shaky start as they turned the ball over each of their first 2 possessions of the quarter. They eventually gained a bit of traction, and a quick five points from JT gave them a seven point lead with 7:44 remaining. Noah Vonleh saw his teammates lighting it up from deep, and decided to join the party as he connected on his first three point attempt of the year. Vonleh saw some important fourth quarter minutes, and was fine for the most part, providing some energy off the bench. A big issue I discussed earlier in the blog was rebounding, and the lack of big man depth Boston was playing with tonight due to the absence of Horford and Kornet. This was starting to show itself as New York had more than doubled Boston’s number of points in the paint. With 5 minutes left, Boston’s lead had shrunk to four points. Would we see the late game Celtics that turn into a sloppy, 1-on-1 heavy, three point chucking team, or the late game Celtics we saw during last year’s playoff run? You just never know. I’m not sure this finish was too much of either, but it was good enough. Boston’s lead never dipped below 5 the rest of the way. Jayson Tatum did what superstars do, and scored 13 of his 26 points in the fourth. While the defense was mostly discouraging, hats off to Boston for grinding out a road win on the second night of a back-to-back.

Key Stats:

1. Boston shoots 27/51(53%) from three. I don't care how bad the defense is, or how many turnovers you have. If you make 27 threes at a 53% clip, you're not going to lose many games. 27 is the most in Celtics franchise history.

2. 22 fourth quarter points given up by the Celtic defense. Compare that to 29,37, and 30 in the first three. It wasn't pretty most of the game, but they found ways to get stops when they needed to down the stretch.

3. New York scored 64 points in the paint compared to 30 for Boston. To be fair, Boston was missing Al Horford and Luke Kornet, but still got dominated in the paint. This has been an issue so far this year, and might remain one until RWIII returns.

Player of the Game: Sam Hauser

This could go a couple different ways, but I think Hauser is deserving. Hauser put up a career-high 17 points in 21 minutes to go along with 3 rebounds and 2 assists. Hauser was a big spark off the bench and might be entering Duncan Robinson territory as far as pure shooting goes. His defense leaves some to be desired, but you cant ask for anymore out of Sam.

Up Next:

Boston continues their road trip on Monday as they take on the Memphis Grizzlies (6-3) at 8:00 PM CST.

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