Red-hot Knicks keep defying belief with gritty win over Celtics


This time they were on the road, in as hostile an environment as the NBA would allow. This time they were the ones missing a star. This time it was the opposing team, the Celtics, who had something to prove, as they had plenty of salt after being humiliated by the Nets two nights earlier.

And it didn’t matter.

It all didn’t matter.

The Knicks outlasted the Celtics in double overtime at TD Garden on Sunday night. The final score was 131-129. The final seconds were a sweaty, hazy, pulsating rush, and the aftermath was as beautiful as in New York sport: the immediate evacuation of the Garden, the exodus of 19,156 sons and daughters of New England, all red – with a face and furious and with the age-old question once asked by Butch and Sundance.

“Who are those guys?”

It’s the red-hot Knicks, who have now won nine games in a row, who have taken a road trip through Miami and Boston by winning some heart-pounding, holy-cow-did-you-that games against the Heat and the Celtics. The fact that they did it this Sunday without Jalen Brunson, their all-in-one point guard?

Yes. That probably explains Mr. and Mrs. Sully’s particularly red faces and particularly irate disposition as they sprinted out of the arena for the T.

Immanuel Quickly celebrates Sunday as the Knicks win over the Celtics.

“We have a number of dogs on this team,” said a cheering Immanuel Quickley.

It was Quickley who made the most of this, Quickley who replaced Brunson (with a sore foot) in the starting lineup, Quickley who played 55 minutes and scored a career-high 38 points and added seven assists, eight rebounds and four steals. Quickley sending the game into second overtime with a floater with 13 seconds left in OT and Quickley scoring the Knicks’ first five points in the second, a quick lead they never relinquished.

“It was a great performance from him,” said Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau. “He performed, made big plays, big shots, made a lot of great defense.”

It was, but in reality it was a huge achievement by everyone. Julius Randle continued his monster blowout of 43 points against the Heat on Friday with 31 points left on Sunday. RJ Barrett had 29 points and 11 rebounds. Mitch Robinson had 13 points and 14 rebounds.

And on the last play of the game, after being consistently burned by Boston center Al Horford who made six 3’s as Robinson was constantly assisting in the middle, he managed to sprint to corner Horford once Jayson Tatum (game – high 40) hit the ball to him.

RJ Barrett (l.) and Immanuel Quickley celebrate Sunday night during the Knicks’ victory in Boston.

Robinson was just enough of a distraction.

Horford’s shot was short.

Josh Hart skied to catch the rebound, the buzzer groaned, and TD Garden instantly went silent except for the merry celebration of the five Knicks on the floor – Randle raised his arms, Barrett pumped his fist, Quickley sprinted to the other side off the track – and the rest of the tour group on the couch.

Tom Thibodeau reacts during the Knicks' victory over the Celtics on March 5.
Tom Thibodeau reacts during the Knicks’ victory over the Celtics on March 5.

They are all having the time of their lives.

“I want our team to have fun and have fun, but I don’t want it to get lost and twisted,” Thibodeau said, always willing to temper too much impetuousness. “Winning is much more fun than having fun is fun.”

On Sunday, the Knicks had both. They saw the Celtics take a 14-point lead in the third quarter, then came roaring back to grab an 11-point lead in the fourth. They screwed up the game at the end of regulation, redeemed themselves by taking it back at the end of overtime, and then doubled down by finally closing out the game.

Knicks’ Mitchell Robinson grabs a rebound on Sunday.

“I’m glad we found a way to win,” said Thibodeau. “The Celtics have had a great season, they are a great team, we knew we had to be at our best all game. Every time they came down they fought back and eventually found a way.

It was their 39th win of the season; when they turn 40, back at the Garden against Charlotte perhaps as early as Tuesday, it will be only the fourth time since 2001 they have done so. They’ve won 12 of 14, a streak that includes two wins over the Celtics, Nets and Heat, and wins over the 76ers, Jazz, Hawks and Pelicans.

“You can’t ask for more,” Quickley said, though he knows better. The Knicks are no longer a cute story. They’re a legit team, and you might want to ask the legion of Celtics fans who flood Legends Way on their way home after watching their C’s lose the season series 3-1 to New York:

“Do YOU ​​want to see the Knicks in the playoffs?”

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