There was a moment during Jayson Tatum’s warmup on Saturday night when he took a brief break from his work.
As he prepared for a Celtics matchup against the Knicks, most of his time on the court was spent honing the skills he would soon use: he hit some jumpers, tested his dribbling, and rehearsed some post moves while the sand began slowly. to fill.
But at one point, maybe for a minute, he lightly kicked a basketball back and forth in the park at Madison Square Garden with a member of the Celtics staff.
And when you play well and win, why not have a little fun?
Tatum and the Celtics beat a depleted Knicks team 116-102 to reach an astonishing 45-12 record on the year, although it was Jaylen Brown who led the way for Boston with 30 points that night.
Former Knick Kristaps Porzingis also finished with 22.
Celtics forward Jayson Tatum drives to the basket against Knicks forward Precious Achiuwa.
Earlier this week, Tatum said in an interview with ESPN who was the best player in the NBA.
‘The fact that he says it, but he backs it up with his work ethic, his professionalism, his teamwork, his coaching ability. … I think it’s important for him to think that way,” Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said before Saturday’s game.
He’s had more impressive games than the 19 points he showed on Saturday, when the Celtics beat the Knicks for the fourth time this season, but it was clear that Tatum’s teammates shared his confidence and swagger.
This is the best team in the Eastern Conference and we saw it at The Garden when their frighteningly deep team finally overwhelmed their hosts.
The first quarter was tight as the Celtics held a slim 30-26 lead after the first 12 minutes.
Jalen Brunson did nothing to deter the ‘MVP’ chants that were raining down among the home fans by scoring 13 points in the period, while Tatum was more passive than usual: three points, two field goal attempts and a near miss. dunk on the shot. chief of Precious Achiuwa.
Jaylen Brown hangs on the rim after a dunk against Knicks guard Josh Hart on Saturday
The Celtics offense decisively ran through Jaylen Brown in the first half, who led the team with 20 points. No one else was over nine.
Boston seemed to be gaining some breathing room in the second quarter, a period in which, curiously, Brunson 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 by the Knicks, which included six points from Brunson, ensured they kept their visitors at bay.
It was telling when, as Boston tried to hold off one last shot, it was Brown handling the ball at the top of the key with Tatum trapped in the corner.
Brown’s attempt was blocked by Precious Achiuwa, giving Josh Hart the opportunity to run to the other end for a layup at the buzzer that the Knicks faithful went wild.
The hustle play, so emblematic of Hart’s role with this Knicks team, reduced the halftime deficit to just four, as at the end of the first.
Achiuwa, seen driving former 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 3-pointer to make the score 76-66 with 7:49 left in the period was quickly answered by an old-fashioned three-point play from Brunson.
From there, the Celtics began to pull away, going on a 12-2 run over the next few minutes to firmly take control of the game.
The Knicks, still without Julius Randle, OG Anunoby and Mitchell Robinson, were left without answers and Celtics fans felt empowered.
With Hart at the free throw line and the Knicks trailing 88-71, loud ‘Let’s Go Celtics’ chants broke out. Knicks fans booed, but knew this one probably wouldn’t turn around against the team with the best record in basketball.
Tatum, who finished the game with a team-high six assists, often took what the Knicks defense gave him and consistently made the right pass.
But he had his big moment when he hit a 3-pointer from an open corner with 1:39 left in the third to extend the Celtics’ lead to 20.
However, there was still a little more drama to come. The Celtics started the quarter cold, scoring on just one of the first five possessions as the Knicks cut the lead to nine.
But the Celtics’ next offensive drive, which ended with Al Horford making a fifth-chance point shot from the top of the board, negated the Knicks’ momentum and showed that this would not be the hosts’ night.