By Dan Treacy
Boston University News Service
NEW YORK — An epic night for Jaylen Brown, 3-pointers in overtime and a dagger from former Celtic Evan Fournier meant plenty of fireworks as Boston dropped their season opener to the New York Knicks, 138-134.
The Celtics face the Knicks three more times this season, but both teams might have a tough time matching the display they put on in Madison Square Garden Wednesday night.
Jayson Tatum’s offensive struggles cast a shadow over an outstanding night from Jaylen Brown, who scored 46 points—including 20 in the first quarter alone—and shot 8-of-14 from three-point range. Tatum, on the other hand, finished just 7-of-30 from the field, including 2-of-15 from behind the arc, in an uncharacteristic performance.
Tatum’s 15 three-point attempts exceeded his 2020-21 single-game high of 13; of the 16 games in which he attempted at least 10 three-point shots last season, only once did Tatum make two or fewer.
Down by four, with nine seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, Brown breathed life into the Celtics with a massive 3-pointer. After a pair of free throws from New York’s Julius Randle, Marcus Smart delivered, forcing overtime with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer himself, making things 116-116.
The beginning of overtime looked like a three-point contest. The Knicks and Celtics combined to drill seven shots from behind the arc in just over two minutes to start the extra period, but the seventh—a game-tying shot from Jayson Tatum—would mark the end of the scoring.
Defenses tightened, shots started to miss freezing the game at 128-128 with nearly three minutes left, forcing double overtime.
It was ex-Celtic Evan Fournier who ultimately took the air out of the Celtics in the second overtime period, drilling the go-ahead 3-pointer for the Knicks with just under a minute remaining.
Boston wouldn’t score again, and while both teams were visibly exhausted when the final buzzer sounded, it was the Celtics who had to go home with a loss on their shoulders.
While Fournier’s Knicks debut is sure to draw plenty of attention, Wednesday night also marked Ime Udoka’s first regular season game as head coach of the Celtics. Udoka leaned heavily on Brown, Tatum, Marcus Smart and Robert Williams, who all played more than 44 minutes.
Udoka operated with a nine-man rotation, but second-year role players Aaron Nesmith and Payton Pritchard were both held scoreless off the bench. Dennis Schroder and Romeo Langford were the only reserves to score in the loss.
Udoka will make his TD Garden debut on Friday night against the Toronto Raptors.