Knicks fall to Celtics despite Brunson’s valiant effort

Pierce Hughes
Eagle News Service

NEW YORK (Eagle News) — Post All-star break, one would hope to witness a more tightly contested battle between the Eastern Conferences’ top tier teams. That wasn’t the case Saturday when the fourth place New York Knicks fell to the first place Boston Celtics, 116-102. The loss, however, was not without a valiant effort by team leader and first time All-Star Jalen Brunson.

Brunson led all scorers with 34 points, almost notching a second straight double-double in as many games since the All-Star break.

NEW YORK, NY – FEBRUARY 24: Jalen Brunson #11 of the New York Knicks drives to the basket during the game against the Boston Celtics on February 24, 2024 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York. (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler / NBAE / Getty Images / Getty Images via AFP)

The Knicks were without two-time All-Star PF Julius Randle (shoulder injury) and SF OG Anunoby (elbow surgery).

Since the acquisition of Anunoby, in games he has played, the Knicks are 12-2. Without the Randle and Anunoby contributions, the Knicks lacked a second go-to scorer to help level the playing field.

At times, it seemed as if Brunson was one David going up against five Goliaths: a defensive juggernaut tandem of Derrick White and Jrue Holiday; the length and size of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum; and the unicorn himself, Kristaps Porzingis.

Despite the Celtics shooting nearly 43% from deep and 57% from the field, Brunson proved to be a formidable foe.

Brunson easily maneuvered anywhere on the court, drew and capitalized on fouls using his herky-jerky play style, going six-for-six from the free throw line.

Despite the loss, the Knick’s overall team effort on the defensive side of the ball and hustle stood out. They out rebounded the best rebounding team in the league 39 to 36.

A take away from tonight’s game is don’t count the Knicks out. This Knicks team has definitely bought into what Tom Thibodeau has been preaching —  tough nose defense and hustle. Despite not being at full strength depth chart wise, New York played pesky, suffocating defense. In the end, however, it was just one of those nights for the Celtics where it seemed no matter what New York did, Boston just would not miss.

Fear not, Knicks faithful. It is, indeed, a long season. There are high hopes Randle will avoid major surgery on his injured shoulder and Anunoby will make slow but steady progress in his return to the court. With a defined team culture and with pieces who have fully bought into that culture, there is no doubt this team will be not just a tough out in the playoffs and but also be more than capable of making a deep run.

(Eagle News Service)