The New York Knicks opened the new 2021-22 regular season with a thrilling win against the Boston Celtics of rookie coach Ime Udoka.
After losing an 11-point lead in the last 3:44 minutes of regulation time; including a buzzer-beater Marcus Smart’s side, Tom Thibodeau’s men survived a rollercoaster of emotions with a great Evan Fournier, who hit the triple winner with 56 seconds remaining in the second overtime.
The Frenchman reaped 32 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 4 steals, and hit three triples in the extra period that catapulted the Knicks to prevail by a tight 134-138.
“It was a real madness: the atmosphere, the fans …”, Fournier admitted to the media NY Post. “It was a lot of fun to play the two overtime periods, but I wish we could have won the game in the first 48 minutes. It was a dog fight. We were both tired, but that’s where the preseason conditioning paid off, ”he explained.
The Knicks were successful despite Jaylen Brown’s spectacular game with 46 points (including 20 in the first quarter).
“I was praying that we would win this game,” admitted Kemba Walker, who also debuted with 10 points, 8 rebounds and 3 assists. “I will not lie. I was literally praying on the bench for us to achieve this victory, “he added.
Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau was not entirely satisfied with the performance of his team. Offensively they have taken a step forward, but they gave too many opportunities to the rival, defense being their main hallmark last year.
“We did not close the game as we should, but we will learn from it,” Thibs acknowledged. “The good thing is that we got the win, but we have a lot of work to do,” he explained.
Randle and the aforementioned Fournier were huge in the second half. The power forward led the offense bordering on the triple-double with 35 points, 8 rebounds, 9 assists and 3 blocks, including a 12/27 shooting from the field. For his part, the number 13 hit a 13/25 in the launch and a 6/13 in triples.
‘I’ve never been worried about him making the shots. He has shown throughout his career how good he is (Fournier). It’s good to see him create that chemistry between him and Julius. The more Kemba plays in that group, the more they will get out of it, ”Thibodeau explained.
Other standouts were RJ Barrett with 19 points and 5 rebounds; Mitchell Robinson finally debuted as a starter with 11 points, 17 rebounds and 3 blocks; and a reborn Obi Toppin contributed 14 points and 5 rebounds from the bench.
In the Celtics, in addition to the heroic work of Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum had 20 points and 11 rebounds; the recently revamped Robert Williams III added another double-double (16 points and 10 rebounds); and Marcus Smart and Gran Williams added 15 points each.
(Cover photo: Sarah Stier / Getty Images)