The of us who had come to cram Madison Square Garden on this excessive holy basketball evening weren’t positive what to do as the ultimate seconds lastly, mercifully, blissfully melted off the clock. They had been via a ringer, then a grinder, then a gauntlet. They had gotten their cash’s value for 3 hours.
And now Jayson Tatum was taking one final one-handed slinging prayer from the deep nook, and the ball was lastly in Julius Randle’s palms, and the Celtics lastly had sufficient. They left Randle alone. The clock hit 0:00. And finally, got here aid. At final got here launch.
At final got here a sound that seemed like a Game 7 out of yesterday, all of this for a Game 1 of proper now, of the brand new season. The Knicks had gained the sport twice, misplaced it twice, as soon as in totally egregious style. They had thrilling stretches and prolonged intervals of time the place it seemed like that they had launched themselves to one another within the layup line.
Quite a lid-lifter, this one. Quite a greeting to the brand new basketball season, this 138-134, double-overtime victory that took 58 minutes of basketball to finish, that required real heroics from no fewer than seven completely different Knicks, that wasn’t settled till Evan Fournier hit his sixth 3 — fourth one in further time — and a wily outdated veteran named Derrick Rose banked one in for insurance coverage.
“The good thing is, at the end of the day, we got the win,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau mentioned. “We know we have a lot of work to do but guys stepped up at the end and made big plays. They’re a load to deal with, they put a lot of pressure on you.”
The Knicks spent the early a part of the sport taking part in an excessive amount of hero ball and surrendering too many open photographs, and trailed 50-38 halfway via the second quarter. They spent the subsequent 22 minutes taking part in about as near good as you’ll be able to play, blitzing the Celtics with a 71-48 avalanche that despatched the Garden into an prolonged spasm of celebration.
And then …
“We didn’t close out the game,” Thibodeau mentioned, “the way we should have.”
Marcus Smart’s buzzer-beating 3 was one of many nice buzzkills you’ll ever see, the Garden going from get together to purgatory in a single flick of the wrist. That was the primary intestine punch. Both groups exchanged early haymakers in OT, then you would actually see them each sputter, like a ’68 Cutlass Supreme gushing gasoline on I-95. That was the second intestine punch.
Somehow, they recovered.
Somehow, they survived.
Somehow, they gave this full home of 19,812 true believers a correct ending, they staggered off the courtroom and had them shut the scoreboard off earlier than anybody may do a recount. Exhaustion was in every single place: the courtroom, the stands, the corridors. And so was exhilaration.
“It was crazy,” Fournier mentioned. “The atmosphere, the fans, the game itself. It was a dogfight, really.”
There would’ve been so much to love even when the numbers had switched sides of the ultimate hyphen, although it will have been more durable to get pleasure from them. Randle picked up the place he left off final 12 months (35 factors, eight rebounds, 9 assists). Thibodeau performed Obi Toppin alongside Randle for productive stretches of the third quarter and was rewarded with the model of Toppin that energizes the Garden the way in which no different Knick can (he completed with 14).
RJ Barrett, held scoreless within the first half, exploded for 14 factors within the third and performed extraordinary protection on Tatum all evening, Tatum taking pictures 7-for-30 (!) from the sphere. Fournier was terrific (32 factors, six boards), Mitchell Robinson posted a double-double (11 factors, 17 rebounds), the Grecian Formula level guard tandem of Rose and Kemba Walker (19 factors, eight assists) seemed good.
There was so much to love, a bit of to like, and a bit of to positively scare the hell out of you. But the ultimate buzzer groaned, the rafters shook, and the standings declared that the Knicks had been 1-0 on the season. The intestine punch wasn’t so devastating after all. The buzz wasn’t utterly killed.
“We made some mental mistakes, made some errors,” Randle mentioned, “but the name of the game is to win the game. Just find a way to win, man.”
If they’d managed to catch their breath, there have been plenty of residents of a basketball metropolis that agreed with each syllable. Just discover a method.