After five defeats in a row and an exhausting day of training on Saturday, Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau emphasized that his team had to concentrate on the work and concentrate on the task at hand every day. The reward was a day like Saturday afternoon.
The Knicks traveled to Boston to take on the Celtics, a team to win five in a row, and beat them from start to finish for a 105-75 win at TD Garden. It was a surprising birthday present for Thibodeau.
“I am not happy if I am not unhappy,” said Thibodeau with a smile. “It’s great to win anytime and of course it’s not easy to get one here. I’m proud of the way the guys have played.”
The Knicks led with up to 37 points and never got stuck in the game. You can point out that the Celtics are without Jayson Tatum or have included Kemba Walker in the lineup for the first time this season as reasons for the Celtics fights. Maybe it was the long hiatus without the ability to practice based on health and safety protocols. Or you can just shake your head thinking the Knicks did a similar job at the Milwaukee Bucks earlier this season and wonder how it doesn’t happen more often.
“I told our players the following: the way they train, the attitude, the approach and the way they train has been positive,” said Thibodeau. “I was thinking of going to Cleveland [Friday]I thought we were ready to play. I thought the shootaround was great and we played well enough to win on the road. It’s not easy to win on the road and we didn’t finish the game the way we would have liked. Then [Saturday] in practice I thought [it] was great. As long as we do the right things. I know we will improve and we will keep getting better. “
Even so, there was little evidence that this was coming. The Knicks dominated every aspect of this game. Boston gave them an opening with a miserable performance – only shooting 7-for-46 out of three-point range. Perhaps it was just a lucky getaway for the Knicks, who saw the goats from across the arc fought similarly and then came back and set an NBA record for most three-pointers made in their next game.
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But the Knicks weren’t just idle spectators that night. The Knicks were 27:18 in the lead after the first quarter, with Julius Randle taking the lead and scoring 10 of his 20 points with 12 rebounds. Immanuel Quickley got off the bench at the end of the first quarter and provided an energy boost as the Knicks pulled back in the second half – 5 of 8 shots for 11 of his 17 points in the run. And he seemed to find a rhythm with his rookie Obi Toppin, and found him three times on the way to the edge.
“I think we just bought in,” said RJ Barrett, who had 19 points and 11 rebounds. “We showed them a crowd on all their trips and bounced back. … Just go shopping. Shop and play together. Bring energy out of the leap and carry us through the whole time. I think that’s very important.” [to see this result]. We work really hard. We work hard every day. We really buy into the coaching system and play hard and try to play together as much as possible. It is great. It’s great to get the win.
“I just think this is the NBA. It can happen to any team. I’m pretty sure [losing streaks] happen to many teams. I have to fight my way out. We did that and we had a big win today. We just have to keep going. “
Steve Popper reports on the Knicks for Newsday. He has spent nearly three decades covering the Knicks and the NBA, along with almost every sports team in metropolitan New York.