Celtics show that they share Jason Tatum’s swaggering self belief as Jaylen Brown and Kristaps Porzingis lead NBA-best Boston to 116-102 win over depleted Knicks squad

There was a moment, during Jayson Tatum’s warm-up on Saturday night, when he took a brief break from his job description.

As he prepared for a Celtics game at the Knicks, he spent most of his time on the court honing the skills he would soon use: He splashed in a few jumpers, tested his dribbling and rehearsed some post moves as the arena started slowly. filling up.

But at one point, perhaps for a minute, he and a Celtics employee gently kicked a basketball back and forth on the hardwood of Madison Square Garden.

And if you play well and win, why not have a little fun?

Tatum and the Celtics defeated a depleted Knicks squad 116-102 to reach a staggering 45-12 record on the year, although it was Jaylen Brown who led the way for Boston with 30 points on the night.

Ex-Knick Kristaps Porzingis also finished with 22.

Celtics forward Jayson Tatum drives to the basket against Knicks forward Precious Achiuwa

Jalen Brunson

Jalen Brunson

Earlier this week, Tatum said in an interview with ESPN that he was the best player in the NBA.

“The fact that he says it, but backs it up with his work ethic, his professionalism, his teamwork, his coachability. … I think it’s important that he thinks like that,” Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said before the game Saturday.

He’s had more impressive games than his 19 points on Saturday, when the Celtics defeated the Knicks for the fourth time this season, but it was clear Tatum’s teammates shared his confidence and swagger.

This is the best team in the Eastern Conference and was watching it at The Garden as their eerily deep roster finally overwhelmed their hosts.

The first quarter was tight, as the Celtics held a slim 30-26 lead after the first twelve minutes.

Jalen Brunson did nothing to discourage the home fans’ “MVP” chants as he scored 13 points in the period, while Tatum was more passive than usual: three points, two field goal attempts and one near-dunk on the wing. head of Precious Achiuwa.

Jaylen Brown hangs from the rim after a dunk against Knicks guard Josh Hart on Saturday

Jaylen Brown hangs from the rim after a dunk against Knicks guard Josh Hart on Saturday

The Celtics’ offense definitely ran through Jaylen Brown in the first half, as he led the team with 20 points. No one else had more than nine.

Boston seemed to get some breathing room in the second quarter, a period in which Brunson strangely played only five and a half minutes.

The Celtics led 56-46 with less than three minutes left in the quarter, but a final push from the Knicks – including six points from Brunson – saw them keep their visitors at bay.

It was telling when, as Boston tried to hold on for one last shot, it was Brown who handled the ball at the top of the key while Tatum was trapped in the corner.

Brown’s attempt was blocked by Precious Achiuwa, giving Josh Hart a chance to sprint to the other end for a buzzer-beating layup that sent the Knicks faithful wild.

The hustle play — so emblematic of Hart’s role on this Knicks team — cut the deficit to just four at halftime, just as it did at the end of the first.

Achiuwa, seen riding ex-Knick Kristaps Porzingis, finished the game with * points

Achiuwa, seen riding ex-Knick Kristaps Porzingis, finished the game with * points

It didn’t take long for Boston to restore its 10-point lead in the third quarter, although Brown’s three-pointer to make it 76-66 with 7:49 left in the period was quickly answered by an old-fashioned three-point play from Brunson .

From then on, although the Celtics began to pull away, they went on a 12–2 run in the ensuing minutes to firmly seize control of the match.

The Knicks – still without Julius Randle, OG Anunoby and Mitchell Robinson – had no answers, and more power was given to the Celtics fans.

With Hart at the free-throw line and the Knicks down 88-71, loud chants of “Let’s Go Celtics” broke out. The Knicks fans booed, but they knew this one probably wouldn’t turn against the team with the best basketball record.

Tatum, who finished the game with six assists, the most on the team, often took what the Knicks defense gave him and consistently made the right pass.

But he had a big moment of his own when he hit a wide-open corner three with 1:39 left in the third, extending the Celtics’ lead to 20.

However, there was a bit more drama to come. The Celtics started the fourth cold, scoring on just one of the first five possessions as the Knicks cut the lead to nine.

But the Celtics’ next offensive trip — which ended when Al Horford made a fifth-chance tip that was shot from the top of the backboard — destroyed the Knicks’ momentum and showed that this simply wouldn’t be the night for the hosts are.