Thursday, January 20, 2022

Knicks stun Celtics thanks to RJ Barrett’s miracle game-winner, Evan Fournier’s career-high 41 points

The New York Knicks and Boston Celtics opened their respective seasons with a thrilling double-overtime game at Madison Square Garden. On Thursday night, the ancient NBA rivals returned to the World’s Most Famous Arena and submitted yet another instant classic. Just as they did in the first game, the Knicks squeaked out the win — this time, 108-105. 

Early on, it looked like the Celtics were going to get some revenge. They built a double-digit lead in the first quarter, and led by as much as 25 in the first half thanks to some red-hot 3-point shooting. But the Knicks went on an 8-0 run heading into the break and kept that momentum going into the second half. 

With just 1.5 seconds remaining, the game was tied and the Knicks had the ball. The stage was set for someone to play hero, and RJ Barrett stepped right up. Coming off a screen, he took the inbounds pass from Alec Burks and went right into a fading 3-pointer. Despite excellent defense from Jayson Tatum, Barrett’s heave banked in at the buzzer to give the Knicks a miraculous win. 

With that shot, Barrett became the first Knick to hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer since Steve Francis back in 2007. In addition, this was the biggest comeback win for the Knicks since 2004 when they beat the Milwaukee Bucks after trailing by 26. Heading into Thursday night, the Knicks were 1-229 in the last 25 seasons when facing a 25-point deficit. 

But though Barrett forced his way into the headlines with his clutch shot, the Knicks wouldn’t have even had a chance without Evan Fournier. The Frenchman was spectacular, pouring in a career-high 41 points on 15-of-25 from the field and 10-of-14 from 3-point land. Some of the shots he made were just ridiculous, especially during the fourth quarter when the Knicks made their big run. 

On the whole, Fournier has been a bit underwhelming in his first season with the Knicks after signing a four-year, $80 million deal in free agency. But when they face the Celtics he’s played like he’s the best player in the world. Whether it’s some extra motivation from going against his former team, or just a strange coincidence, Fournier and the Knicks must wish they could play Boston every night. 

Fournier has three 30-point games this season, all of which have come against the Celtics. In those three outings, he’s averaging 35 points on 55.4 percent shooting from the field and 54 percent from 3-point land. For the season, Fournier is putting up 13.5 points on 41.4/38.1 shooting splits. 

The real test, now, will come on Saturday when the Knicks play the Celtics for the fourth and final time this season. 

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