Without his defensive gaffe, the Knicks wouldn’t have needed two overtimes. If not for his offensive production, they may not have found a way to pull out a victory Wednesday night.
Evan Fournier’s Knicks debut certainly was up and down. He started slowly, broke out offensively at the end and made a bad defensive miscue in a 138-134 double overtime win over the Celtics at a raucous Garden.
What mattered most was his offensive explosion when the Knicks need it most, scoring 12 of his 32 points in the two extra sessions. He hit the game’s biggest shot, a 3-pointer with 56.1 seconds left that gave the Knicks the lead for good. Derrick Rose followed with a bankshot after a stop and the Knicks survived.
Of the two significant offseason additions, Fournier was the more productive of the two. Kemba Walker committed four turnovers — two late in regulation which enabled the Celtics to rally from eight down with 2:42 left — and made just 3 of 8 shots to finish with 10 points.
Fournier was a potent force on the offensive end against his former team, hitting 13 of 25 shots, adding six rebounds, four steals and three assists.
“Kemba and Evan are terrific players,” coach Tom Thibodeau said after the wild opening-night victory. “We’re excited about the possibilities.”
With the Knicks up three and 4.8 seconds left in regulation, they allowed the Celtics to get even on a Marcus Smart 3-pointer at the buzzer. Having to go the full length of the court, Boston inbounded the ball to Jayson Tatum. Fournier double-teamed him in the backcourt, enabling the Celtics to advance the ball and get a wide-open look for Smart in the right corner.
Fournier didn’t let the gaffe get him down. He hit consecutive 3-pointers early in the first overtime, setting a strong tone. The Knicks couldn’t finish off the Celtics until the final seconds of the second overtime, but they were able to survive eventually. It may not have happened without their new potent wing shooter.