Thursday, October 26, 2023

Celtics 108, Knicks 104: Kristaps Porzingis makes historic debut in win to open regular-season

The Celtics pulled out a late fourth quarter comeback in their regular season-opener to beat the New York Knicks 108-104 Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.

Jayson Tatum led all scorers with 34 points on 13-of-22 from the field, to go along with 11 rebounds and four assists. Kristaps Porzingis finished with 30 points -- going 5-of-9 from behind the arc -- eight rebounds and four blocks in his C's debut.
"Honestly, it's an awesome feeling to come back now being a Celtic and play here," Porzingis said to in his post-game presser after setting a franchise record for the highest-scoring debut. "Even getting booed and getting all that, it's cool, I really like that and  enjoyed that. But most importantly we the game and very excited about what we have ahead of us."
Derrick White had 12 points, six rebounds, while Jaylen Brown added 11 points, six rebounds and five assists in the victory on the road.

Jrue Holiday, also making his Celtic debut, hit a driving layup with 3:13 left to play, cutting the deficit down to five -- as part of a 13-3 Boston run to end the game. The All-Star guard chipped in nine points, four rebounds, three blocks and two steals.

RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley each scored 24 respectively for the Knicks. Jalen Brunson added 15 points, six assists, while Julius Randle struggled on 5-of-22 shooting to record 14 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists in the loss at home.

The Celtics led by as many as 12 points in the first half, before taking a 51-46 advantage into the break. Tatum, who netted 19 points in the first 12 minutes, went on to score nine straight points to open the third quarter and push the lead back to double-digits.

New York used a 13-2 spurt to start the final frame and take their first lead of the night with 8:56 remaining. Porzingis hit a go-ahead 28-footer (91-90), despite playing with four fouls, the 7-foot-3 big man scored 12 of the Celtics' final 17 points -- including a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 1:29 remaining to put Boston up for good.

Porzingis, who spent his first four seasons (playing three before suffering an ACL injury) with the Knicks, is coming off his best year as a pro during the 2022-23 campaign -- averaging a career best 23.2 points per contest with the Wizards -- before being traded to Boston over the summer to a championship contending roster.
"KP is hungry and excited to be here and knows how important he is to this team and what we need him to bring each and every night," Tatum said to reporters following the win.
The Celtics will return back home to host the reigning East champs Miami Heat Friday night, in a rematch of the Conference Finals. ESPN will have the tip-off from TD Garden at 7:30 pm EST.

Game Notes:

Boston connected on 48.1% from the floor, including 12-of-39 (30.8%) from 3-point territory, while the Knicks were 37.1% from the field and 18-of-41 (43.9%) from 3. The Celtics were out-rebounded 47-46 but won the battle in paint outscoring the home team 42-24. The C's handed out 18 assists (13 turnovers on 37 made shots to New York's 24 dimes (11 turnovers) on 36 baskets.

Joel Pavón

Photo used courtesy of Getty Images

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