Knicks Beat Celtics in Opener in Double Time beyond regulation

When the usually gruff Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau took the rostrum on Wednesday night time, he did one thing out of character. He opened his information convention with a smile.

He had simply sat — or slightly, stood — by means of a double-overtime thriller to begin the season towards the Boston Celtics, a recreation that featured 11 lead changes and 10 ties. It was the primary time {that a} Knicks residence opener went into double time beyond regulation.

“The great factor is, on the finish of the day, we bought the win,” Thibodeau mentioned of the Knicks’ pulling out the 138-134 victory.

It was solely a regular-season game, but it surely felt just like the basketball equal of the Iliad. There have been star performances on each side, like Jaylen Brown’s career-high 46 factors for the Celtics after his current bout with Covid-19, and Julius Randle’s 35 factors, choosing up proper the place he left off from carrying the Knicks final season. Even earlier than halftime of opening night time, Randle’s efficiency had the Backyard crowd chanting “M-V-P!” once more.

There was peak basketball, like Robert Williams III, the Celtics heart, scoring 16 factors on solely 5 pictures, and his Knicks counterpart, Mitchell Robinson, doing just about the identical factor on the opposite finish.

And there was completely atrocious basketball, just like the Knicks’ making a defensive miscue to free Celtics guard Marcus Sensible for an inconceivable (and uncontested) 3-pointer that tied the rating on the regulation buzzer and despatched the sport to time beyond regulation.

To not be outdone, the Celtics missed a large open dunk and layup that would have sealed the sport within the second time beyond regulation.

Each groups have been with out key gamers: the Celtics with out Josh Richardson and Al Horford, and the Knicks with out Taj Gibson and Nerlens Noel. And whereas there aren’t many conclusions that may be drawn from just one recreation, particularly the primary one, Wednesday night time made clear that there are some choices on the new-look Knicks that they didn’t have final season.

Final 12 months, the Knicks had problem taking strain off Randle, notably with taking pictures the ball from the perimeter to create area for him late in video games. The signing of Evan Fournier, a 28-year-old in his 10th N.B.A. season, seems to have given the Knicks a human launch valve.

Fournier made six 3-pointers on Wednesday night time, together with one within the ultimate minute of the second time beyond regulation to provide the Knicks the lead for good. He completed with 32 factors, a lot to the aid of a grateful Randle. He was one other useful possibility in crunchtime that needed to be accounted for.

“He got here up tremendous clutch in these overtimes,” Randle mentioned. “Hit some huge pictures. So I simply wished to maintain discovering him. However Evan is nice, man. He’s actually sensible. We talked after the sport. There’s issues that we really feel like we will do higher and work on. He has a particularly excessive IQ.”

The Knicks additionally noticed good indicators from Obi Toppin, who got here off the bench with 14 factors in 28 minutes, probably the most he had performed in a recreation thus far in his profession. The Knicks have been 4 factors higher with Toppin on the ground, and his robust play allowed the staff to play small and transfer Randle to the middle place. That gave the Knicks a lineup that was extra nimble.

“Obi is basically studying the way to turn into an N.B.A. participant,” Fournier mentioned. “From what I noticed from him final 12 months, he’s actually getting higher and higher. He understands the way to make himself environment friendly.”

It was how Toppin made his presence felt that’s more likely to encourage Thibodeau to make him a everlasting a part of the rotation. He routinely put the Celtics’ protection on its heels by means of sheer vitality and operating the ground at full dash to create alternatives for himself. Toppin, now in his second season, missed all three of his 3-pointers and isn’t but a dependable shooter, however on Wednesday he made sufficient sensible cuts to compensate for it.

“Juice tells me after I’m on the courtroom with him, if I see that he has the rebound, take off,” Toppin mentioned, referring to Randle. “That’s what I do finest. I run the ground. Each probability I get, I’m getting out within the open flooring.”

That might be helpful for the Knicks, who have been middle of the road in pace last year. Toppin’s efforts have been rewarded.

“Man, listening to your identify chanted within the Backyard is superb,” Toppin mentioned. “It’s an unbelievable expertise I can’t even clarify. It’s simply one thing you’ve bought to reside by means of.”

This was the form of regular-season ambiance that hadn’t been doable in the course of the pandemic, even when it was just one recreation beginning an extended slog of a season.

However in a aggressive Jap Convention towards a division rival, one recreation may very well be the distinction between having residence courtroom benefit and never, because the Knicks themselves discovered final 12 months to their profit. With excessive aspirations, each victory issues.

“I don’t suppose we escaped,” Randle mentioned. “We made some psychological errors, errors or no matter. On the finish of the day, we discovered a method to win a recreation.”

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