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Despite awful 4th quarter finish, Knicks display their mettle

Photo from Yahoo! Sports

Admit it, Knicks fans. You thought this had a making of an ugly Knicks loss after the Boston Celtics somehow tied it with nine seconds to go in regulation by hitting a couple of 3-pointers on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden. It resulted in overtime, and the Knicks fans were stunned from reading Twitter and watching the Garden crowd be stunned in silence.

This was adversity right there in Game 1 of the season. We were going to find out right there and right now how the Knicks would respond to this.

Face it. The Knicks did not have much adversity last season since they never had one, not to mention they had no pressure. This year is different with everyone watching.

While Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau embraces chaos to see how his players would respond, this is not what he had in mind to see his team go through this in the first game of the season.

It was go-time for the Knicks, alright.

They found a player to step up in Evan Fournier, who hit 3 3-pointers in the first overtime to go with his 32 points in what was an impressive Knicks debut. If he didn’t give them a lift, they would have lost this game. Yes, in the end, it went to double overtime after the Celtics hit a couple of 3-pointers of their own, but they needed someone to lead the way in this spot after what happened 19 seconds in regulation. He did, and that’s why it was the turning point of the game. It gave the Knicks a chance to hang in there. He helped them survive.

The Celtics played like a fatigued team in the second overtime. Jaylen Brown (career-high 46 points) and Jayson Tatum (20 points) exhausted all their energy in keeping the Celtics in the game all night to the point they had nothing in the end. They combined to score 66 points.

The Knicks did enough to win in the double-overtime on RJ Barrett’s layup, Julius Randle’s three-point play, Fournier’s 3-pointer and Derrick Rose’s dagger. Final: Knicks 138 Celtics 134.

Knicks fans left the Garden satisfied knowing their team showed guts and toughness to survive heartbreak in the fourth quarter. Sure, the Celtics had nothing in the end, but no matter. This Knicks team found its identity and played like a Tom Thibodeau team that would grind and find way to finish the game as winners.

It’s no wonder why the Garden sounded like a championship celebration on television in the end. It’s no wonder I exited New York Penn Station to a pandemonium outside, which provided a hint the Knicks won in double overtime.

It sure felt like the 90s all over again when the team would win by guile and smarts.

There was so much to like about the Knicks besides their mettle. Barrett showed he can be the guy to make big shots. After a scoreless first half, he spearheaded the Knicks’ 12-0 run in the third quarter by scoring 14 points in that quarter to give them a new life. Obi Toppin showed he can be invaluable by going for loose balls and taking the ball to the basket. Fournier showed the moment would not be too big for him. Randle showed leadership by coming up big in the double-overtime when he had a little bit of something left despite logging 46 minutes.

There was also something to complain about in this game. Kemba Walker offered nothing on this night in his first game for his hometown team. He put on a pedestrian 10 points, and he would get beat on defense often. In fact, he was responsible for Marcus Smart hitting a 3-pointer that took the game in overtime by not guarding him well. The Knicks have to hope that this is just jitters because if this is what he is after a knee injury, this is going to be a problem.

Thibodeau made the mistake of playing Walker down the stretch, which helped the Celtics make the comeback. The Knicks were in better flow when Rose placed Walker in the third quarter, which started the Knicks’ run. The defense was much better. On this night, Walker shouldn’t have been in this position.

This would have been a story had the Knicks lost. But since they won, everyone will celebrate this team showing heart, and rightfully so since the previous Knicks team in the last few decades would have rolled over in overtime. This win served as a testament to the culture that Thibodeau created with this Knicks team that has been missing since Jeff Van Gundy left in 2001.

Thibodeau should be encouraged to know the Knicks passed the adversity test in Game 1.

This should be the takeaway of the Knicks season opener.

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