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When one of the youngest players on your team has to sit out with Achilles tendon inflammation, you know the schedule's been rough.

But, rough is exactly what you'd have to call the Boston Celtics December schedule - the league's busiest - where fatigue has been as much a factor in games as the opponent's skill level has. Going into tonight's matchup against the New York Knicks, the Celts carried the burden of such a hectic pace with them, letting the Knicks jump out to a ten-point lead to start the matchup.

With Jaylen Brown, Marcus Morris, and Shane Larkin missing the game with injuries, and multiple players playing through minor ones, the combination of road weariness and injuries was evident. Boston's first-quarter defense was lackadaisical, and their offense was out of rhythm, too, with only Kyrie Irving and Marcus Smart scoring until Al Horford got on the board with four minutes left in the frame. Tatum and Irving would keep Boston within ten to end the first.

The second quarter opened with Frank Ntilikina picking off a pass from Semi Ojeleye, but an 8-0 run coming from the bench actually gave the Celts a much-needed boost, bringing them to within four at just under the ten-minute mark. The Knicks would push it back to ten behind strong play by Michael Beasley and Kyle O'Quinn, but Horford, Smart and Aron Baynes cut the lead to three with as many minutes left in the half. Kyrie managed to get the score down to a two-point lead with a minute to go, but the Knicks managed a quick bucket by Enes Kanter to close out the half 44-40 Knicks.
The third quarter opened with a Tatum trey - only his third shot of the night - and Kyrie gave Boston its first lead of the night at the ten-minute mark. Horford and Tatum began to heat up, and extended the lead to nine at the five-minute mark, but the Knicks refused to fold, clawing back to within a bucket with a minute left in the third behind a seven-naught run capped by a Beasley make. A Daniel Theis basket stopped the bleeding, but O'Quinn tied it up at 68 to close out the period.
The fourth opened with a trip to the line for Semi Ojeleye to give Boston the lead briefly, but both teams would take it back, trading baskets and free throws, including treys from rookies Ntilikina and Abdel Nader. Beasley caught fire, however, and gave the Knicks a three-possession lead only Tatum kept under control. O'Quinn added to the cushion, however, and Beasley continued to cook, putting New York up 10 with just under four left in the game. Irving broke the drought on the next play, but then he, Ntilikina and Doug McDermott started trading treys, slowed only by trips to the charity stripe for Irving and Tatum.
Tatum got Boston to within six, but couldn't get a stop, with Beasley continuing to have a career night. Despite a valiant effort, the Celts fell to a motivated Knicks squad 102-93. They next face the Chicago Bulls at 6:30 p.m. EST this December 23rd.

For more stories by Justin, click here.



Image: Getty/Michael Reeves
Follow Justin at @justinquinnn

Justin Quinn 12/21/2017 10:41:00 PM Edit
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