New York Knicks outlast Boston Celtics in wild, albeit sloppy, double-overtime opener

NEW YORK -- With nine seconds left in Wednesday night's season opening against the Boston Celtics at Madison Square Garden it seemed that the home team was poised for a win that would give Kemba Walker a feeling-good start to his Knicks career.
The Knicks did win the game, but it was not in the way that anyone had hoped.

After nine wild seconds of regulation that saw the Celtics hit two 3-pointers in five ticks to tie the score and New York win a pair of intense overtimes, New York escaped with a victory of 138-134. This was a dramatic turnaround from what would have been a devastating season-opening loss.

Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau stated, "The good news at the end is we got to win."

It took New York a lot longer to get it than initially thought.

After Evan Fournier, a former Celtic starting in New York's backcourt, made a layup to increase New York's lead by 114-110 with nine minutes left, the trouble began. This sent the MSG partisan fans into a frenzy of celebration in anticipation for a win.

Jaylen Brown finished with 46 points and buried a 28 foot 3-pointer to bring the Celtics within one point. With 4.9 seconds left, Julius Randle made a pair free throws to bring the Knicks' lead to 116-113. Boston didn't have any timeouts so the Knicks were forced to foul.

"We had a play in which we wanted Jayson [Tatum] to move on the run," ImeUdoka, who was coaching his first regular season game for Boston, stated afterward about the Celtics' strategy.

However, the strategy was ruined when Tatum, who grabbed the inbounds ball, fell and slipped. Instead of grasping him, the Knicks players frozen, which allowed Tatum to stand up and throw a pass to Dennis Schroder, who was in the middle. After everyone scrambled to catch up, Schroder ran into the frontcourt and pulled Walker towards him. He then swung a pass at Marcus Smart, who made the game-winning 3-pointer. The buzzer went off, and the crowd was stunned.

Tatum stated that he tried to lift it, but slipped. "Then I saw that [Fournier] was coming and doubled it, so I threw it at Dennis and he found an open Smart. He took it down and gave us another chance.

The teams looked exhausted heavyweight fighters trying desperately to make it through the last rounds of a championship bout for the next 10 minutes. Each team scored 12 points within the first two minutes. They combined to miss all the remaining 10 shots while going scoreless for the remainder of the overtime. Tatum missed a crucial shot after he had the ball for one last time.

Tatum was 7-for-30 in the field, and 2-for-15 in 3-point range.

Tatum said, "Sometimes it's necessary to laugh at yourself," referring to his poor shooting performance. He shook his head. "I guess I'm good enough for one of those a year.

"Hopefully that's the last one. It's over. There are 81 more.

Second overtime quickly became a grind, with each team scoring only once in the first three minutes. After Tatum put Boston in front with a clever drive and an and-1 finger roll (which was followed by a three-minute overtime), the Knicks responded with a Fournier 3 pointer and Derrick Rose's floater on back-toback possessions in minute 58, giving New York the victory margin.

Fournier said, with a smile, "It was crazy," after finishing with 32 points. It was great to be in OT. However, I wish that we could have won the game within the first 48 minutes.

"But it was a fight, really, especially towards the end. You guys would have seen that we were both exhausted.

The ending was wild and egregious, but it was Walker's debut game as a Knick. According to the Bronx native, Walker has a legendary New York City basketball history. This includes his time at Harlem’s Rice High School and his achievements at the University of Connecticut in this arena.

Walker said, "So much was going through my mind," as he walked out onto the court to a loud ovation. "Just couldn't believe that. It was really just for the home team.

"I am a Bronx kid, born and raised here. It was an incredible feeling to put on that jersey for the first time for the regular season and be announced.

Walker's performance was mixed. Walker finished the game with 10 points and eight rebounds. He also had three assists, three assists, and four turnovers. Boston was able to creep back in after the last 30 seconds of regulation. Rose was substituted for him after he played 35 minutes.

Walker admitted that he was disappointed by his late-in-regulation play. "I was a little disappointed in myself. It was a small mental error on my part. It happens.

"I have done many crazy and not so smart things during my career. It was certainly one of them. It happens. It's up to you to find a way that will allow you to stick together. You have to find a way out to win, and that's exactly what we did.

Walker was traded by the Celtics in the offseason. He said that he had spent time with former teammates after the game. He stated that it was not strange to play against them in his first game with the Knicks.

Walker stated that Walker could have said, "Maybe if it was elsewhere it would've been strange." It wasn't strange, though, because I was with the home team. It was like everyone had my back. My teammates, my city, my fans, everyone. It was not strange. I have a lot love for these guys. It was evident before the game. We have a wonderful relationship, man.

"I just got out of the locker room talking to these guys. Those guys are my brothers. These are my brothers. We became very close over the past two years. It doesn't matter if I'm on a different team.

From the other side, the feelings were mutual.

Brown said, "That's my guy man," and his 46 points was the most by a Celtics player during a season opener. He surpassed Hall of Famer Bob Cousy (35 each). Kemba Walker is a great guy. He is one of those guys you just want to be with, man.

"Kemba was great for my time in Boston and me. He was kind, warm, and he let me be myself. Sometimes guys can be jealous or do things like this. Kemba Walker is not one of those guys. So, I am very thankful for the time and lessons I learned. It was great to share the floor with him. It was great to see him in his hometown. I met his family at the game and said hello.


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