Celtics take a bite out of the Big Apple, narrowly defeat Knicks 103-101

Coming off a tough loss to the Toronto Raptors last night, the Boston Celtics took the short trek to NYC to face off against the New York Knicks.

The Celtics exercised extreme precaution before the tip, ruling Gordon Hayward out for tonight's matchup due to "general soreness" of his ankle.

After the introductions, including the roaring applause Kyrie Irving received from NYC's faithful still hanging on to the slimmer than slim hopes of signing Kyrie next summer, the ball was tipped.

The Celtics jumped to an early 14-5 lead, with Jayson Tatum, Kyrie, and Al Horford doing what they do. That lead ballooned to 16 as the Celtics took command 26-10.

And then Boston hit the snooze button, letting the likes of Allonzo Trier and some dude named Dotson hit a number of threes. When it was all said and done, the Celtics 31-18 first quarter lead -- and aforementioned 16 point lead -- were shrunk to a single bucket. All despite the C's shooting 8/14 from downtown.

HALFTIME: Celtics 50, Knicks 48
Of note, Celtics wunderkind Jayson Tatum with a double-double at the half, after having grabbed 10 boards and dropping in a dozen points. Aron Baynes added in 10 points and 5 boards of his own, before exiting with what appeared to be a pulled hamstring.

The second half opened with Marcus Smart in the lineup as Baynes was ruled out for the game with what the Celtics rules as a "sore right hamstring." On the play, it appeared Baynes was kneed in that area of his leg. Hopefully it's nothing more than just that soreness. Adding insult to injury, Al Horford picked up his 4th foul with about 10 minutes left in the 3rd, which brought "The Dancing Bear" (aka Guerschon Yabusele) into the game.

The third quarter started off pretty ugly with both teams exchanging buckets and botched plays, the Celtics narrowly hanging on to a small lead. Towards the end of the third, a combination of Jayson Tatum being Jayson Tatum and a some timely free throws extended the lead -- but not by much.

END OF 3RD: Celtics 77, Knicks 70 

Jayson Tatum leads the team with 18 points and 13 rebounds. Starting the final period off was a beautiful full court play drawn up by Brad and flawless executed by the gang in green, capped with a nice Rozier jumper. With 8:00 minutes remaining in the game, the Celtics stretched the lead to 10, going up 85-75.

With 4:12 left in the game, an offensive foul on Kyrie that would've turned the Celtics lead back to 9, instead turned into a Tim Hardaway Jr. three ball. Followed by another triple by Hardaway.

Just like that, our double-digit lead was but a memory.

Timeout, Boston. Celtics 89, Knicks 89.

Of note. This is embarrassing. The Celtics should be smoking this team. For some reason, they seem out of it. Lack of energy. Lack of movement. They need to understand (and quickly) that no team is going to give them anything.

Out of the timeout, the Celtics executed. Kyrie used his quicks against Trey Burke, getting to the rack which led to two free throws. Hardaway Jr. missed a three on the other end, leading to an easy layup for Al Horford via the fifth assist of the night from Kyrie.

Timeout, Knicks.

Then, Kyrie pulled another rabbit out of his Houdini hat.
This play propelled the Celtics to a much-needed 7-0 run. With 2:41 left in the game, Celtics led 96-89.

The Knicks responded with two quick buckets, cutting the lead to 4 with 1:37 to go. The Knicks, in the penalty, fouled Smart who split a pair from the line.

Boston 97, Knicks 93 with 1:30 to go.

With the Celtics up 4, the Knicks respond with a quick triple.

And then Jayson Tatum showed off what he'd been doing in the offseason, drilling the biggest shot of the game:
He's only 20 years old, kiddies.

Up 101-98 with 21 ticks on the game clock, the Celtics just needed to get one stop. However, the Knicks opted to get an easy two instead of launching a three.

Boston leads 101-100, with 0:10 to go.

Timeout, Boston.

After the timeout, Jayson Tatum calmly nailed two free throws, taking the lead back to three -- with his personal game total up to 24 points.

Celtics lead 103-100 with 07.9 seconds to go.

Tatum, the hero of this game, then inexplicably fouled Trey Burke shooting a three. Burke missed the first attempt, made the second, then intentionally missed the third but to no avail.

Thankfully, this shouldn't-have-been-close-but-annoyingly-was game ended.

FINAL SCORE: Boston 103, Knicks 101.

Jayson Tatum: 24 points, 14 rebounds
Kyrie Irving: 16 points, 5 assists (although his opening night shooting woes continued, with Kyrie only going 5/16 from the field)
Marcus Morris: 16 points, 6 reb
Al Horford: 8 points, 10 rebounds

Watch full game highlights here:

Follow Edward Babaian on Twitter: @bojixbabaian

Photo Credit: Boston Celtics