Knicks vs. Celtics: Evan Fournier goes wild as New York, Boston trade haymakers in thrilling season opener

Who’s ready for a first-game-of-the-season overreaction? Me! The New York Knicks are awesome! In what had to be one of the most electric, flat-out wild season-opening games in recent memory, the Knicks outlasted the Boston Celtics, 138-134, in double overtime on Wednesday. 

But the biggest winner was the league itself. 

The NBA is an entirely different product when the Knicks are good. And, yes, they are good. Dating back to last season’s success, we have enough evidence to say that. But more than being a good team, they might be an exciting team. This is the key. We know Tom Thibodeau teams can win in pretty boring fashion; last season the Knicks were a bad offensive team. But you can’t replicate a Madison Square Garden crowd when buckets are being thrown back and forth like heavyweight haymakers, and that’s what we saw on Wednesday. 

Shout out to Evan Fournier, who broke a Knicks record for most points in franchise debut with 32, surpassing Keith Van Horn’s mark of 29 in 2003. Remember when it seemed like a giant overpay when the Knicks bestowed upon Fournier a four-year, $78 million deal this summer? Well, this is what it looks like to have a legit perimeter scorer and 3-point threat to ease Julius Randle’s burden. 

Not that Randle, who put up 35 points, didn’t pull his weight on Wednesday. 

Down the stretch and in overtime, the Celtics decided to go under screens when defending Fournier, and he made them pat with a series of monster 3s. Here he puts the Knicks up six with under a minute to play in regulation, and it looked like the game was over. 

Somehow, the Celtics rallied, starting with this bomb from Jaylen Brown, who also etched his name in the history books with 46 points — the most in a season opener Celtics history and Brown’s career-high. 

After a pair of free throws gave New York a three-point lead, Fournier screwed up defensively by double-teaming Jayson Tatum, who has a miserable shooting night, some 80 feet from the basket, which left a wide-open man, Marcus Smart, in the front-court, and of course Smart hit the tying triple without a defender near him. 

Fournier made up for it immediately, sticking three 3-pointers inside the first 90 seconds of overtime, starting with this one:

And then this one:

Fournier’s third overtime 3-pointer began a wild string of Boston and New York trading triples on four straight possessions (Fournier, Smart, RJ Barrett and Tatum). With less than a minute to play in double overtime and the Knicks trailing by one, Fournier hit his biggest 3 of the night to give New York a lead it finally wouldn’t relinquish. 

All told, Fournier scored 17 of his 32 points in the final minute of regulation and the two OTs. Barrett had 19 points and five boards. Obi Toppin had a career-high 14 points. Derrick Rose sealed the game with a running bank shot. Kemba Walker hit three of his four 3s. Mitchell Robinson blocked a pair of shots and altered countless others. 

Indeed, the Knicks have players. They’re deep. They’re going to play hard every night. And if they can build off this momentum to get out to a hot start, that MSG crowd will become a 41-night rock concert that could carry them a long way. For now, this was just one game. But what a game it was. Guys were so tired they could hardly stand by the end. Just incredible theatre under the brightest of NBA lights. 

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