The Celtics dropped their third consecutive game Thursday night, falling 120-117 in overtime to the New York Knicks in a game Boston had plenty of chances to win -- most notably late in overtime when Jaylen Brown went to the line with an opportunity to take the lead and missed both free throws.
The Celtics started off the first quarter hot, making 10 of their first 14 shots and jumping out to a 15-point lead behind an 18-2 run. The C’s would cool off quickly, though, as they finished the opening frame shooting just 12-of-28.
The Knicks responded with a run of their own and erased Boston’s 15-point lead behind a 24-9 run. Led by Julius Randle and Jalen Brunson, the Knicks cut Boston’s lead down to just two at the half. Randle and Brunson continued that momentum into the third quarter, as the two combined for 27 third-quarter points and put the Knicks on top by six heading into the fourth quarter.
Boston would miss an opportunity to start the fourth quarter. Randle and Brunson began the fourth quarter on the bench, and in those minutes, the Knicks still outscored the Celtics 11-7 and built their largest lead of the night at 13.
The Celtics would rally, though, as they went on a 16-4 run in the final 5:26 of regulation. Boston’s defense shut down the Knicks, forcing two shot-clock violations and holding them to just four points.
It was Jayson Tatum with the ball in his hands and a chance to win the game at the end of regulation, but despite getting a good look, Tatum couldn’t knock it down.
The Celtics, who entered the game 2-3 in overtime games this season, struggled down the stretch in OT, as they would be outscored 10-2 in the final 2:45. Boston shot just 2-of-11 (18.2%) from the field in overtime, but despite the poor shooting, the Celtics had an opportunity to take the lead with 7.1 seconds to go after Brunson was whistled for a shooting foul on Brown.
Brown, who has been outstanding for the C’s this season, went to the charity strike and missed both free throws.
After taking an intentional foul, RJ Barrett would hit both free throws for the Knicks, expanding their lead to three. It was Tatum again that would have a chance to force a second overtime period, but couldn’t get it to fall.
On a night the Celtics made history in becoming the first NBA franchise to play 6,000 games in the regular season, they suffered yet another gut punch.
When asked about the missed free throws postgame, Brown said, “Just gotta be better to be honest. Tonight was a rough game. I’m a better basketball player than I played today. Those two missed free throws kind of embodied the whole game.”
It’s a tough situation to miss both those free throws, but the Celtics had plenty of other opportunities. And despite the tough ending, Brown’s teammates are sticking by him.
When asked what he says to Brown after missing the two clutch free throws, interim coach Joe Mazzulla said, “I love you Jaylen. I believe in you.”
Tatum added, “Everybody needs a pick-me-up. We got the utmost confidence in him. I can’t bet on NBA games, but I would bet everything I got that if he was in that situation again, he would knock them both down.”