Derrick White’s 30 points carries Celtics past Knicks 133-123; Jaylen Brown ejected with 2 technicals
Jaylen Brown, Joe Mazzulla react to Brown’s ejection vs Knicks
The Celtics bounced back from their In Season Tournament loss to the Pacers with a 133-123 win over the Knicks on Friday that became relatively comfortable in the second half.
Here are the takeaways.
1. In a double-digit victory against a playoff-caliber opponent, the big story for the Celtics was Jaylen Brown’s ejection in the fourth quarter after picking up a pair of technicals on the same play.
The first technical — according to Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla, who spoke incredulously to officials in the aftermath — was for telling an official not to call “that weak-ass s—” after Brown was whistled for a foul.
“I’ve been on the sidelines in the NBA for five years,” Mazzulla added. “I’ve seen players act and say things that are way more disrespectful than that.”
The second technical was a little murkier, but the postgame pool report offered an explanation from crew chief Mark Lindsay.
“The second technical foul was called for a wave off directed at the official which under the respect of the game guidelines is considered an overt gesture and an unsportsmanlike act,” Lindsay said.
Mazzulla said he didn’t receive an explanation for the second technical, adding that he was trying not to cost himself $25,000 for complaining publicly about the officials.
Brown wasn’t quite as careful.
“I think it’s a difference between showing emotion, and it being disrespectful or derogatory towards another person,” Brown said. “I don’t think I was directing it towards him whatsoever. Especially on the second one. It wasn’t even close. I was on the bench, I’m talking from the sideline. He can’t even hear anything I’m saying. So he calls a tech from across the court. That for sure has to do with somebody having their emotions too involved in whatever else is going on, and they’re accessing their power with technical fouls. I ain’t going to comment on officiating in general, but I am going to comment on this guy in particular tonight. I thought it was bulls—.”
Brown added that he was talking to a different official when the first official threw him out.
“I’m explaining to the ref, and he calls a second tech from the other side of the court, which is a clear example of somebody exercising their power to try to get somebody thrown out the game,” Brown said. “I thought it was bulls—. It is what it is. We got the win.”
Before his ejection, Brown scored 17 efficient points and attempted the dunk of the year on Isaiah Hartenstein.
2. Kristaps Porzingis was back in action, and predictably, the Celtics’ offense looked significantly better. The offense makes more sense with Porzingis in the mix, especially against a team like the Knicks whose bigs seem to struggle when they are stretched to the 3-point line.
Porzingis started hot, scoring the Celtics’ first eight points, and he finished with 21 on 7-for-13 shooting. Importantly, since he was in a bit of a slump from behind the arc before he went down with an injury, he shot 3-for-6 on Friday.
Porzingis told reporters afterward that his injured calf felt “good” and “clean” with no tightness, which is a great sign for a Celtics team that learned how badly they missed him during his four-game absence.
“Felt good to be back out there,” Porzingis said. “Was itching to get back out there with my guys and happy about getting back and beating a good team like the Knicks.”
3. You can’t safely call Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Kristaps Porzingis a “Big Three” because Derrick White should really be included in any discussion of the Celtics’ best players even if his stats don’t always pop.
On Friday, however, they popped: White poured in 30 points on 10-for-16 shooting and made 6-for-10 from deep. He added three rebounds and three assists as well as two steals and two blocks, and he drew MVP chants at the free throw line late, which White called “crazy” afterward.
“We’ve got the best fans in the league, so I’m always thankful and grateful for them,” he said. “I know I’m not the MVP, but it’s always cool to hear.”
Porzingis still believes White is underrated, even as people discuss his importance a little more.
“If you don’t watch the game, what you don’t see is all those steals, something like where he recovers on defense when it’s already super late and somehow he gets a steal,” Porzingis said. “Those kinds of small plays that can really change a game, really change the momentum, he’s really good at that.”
4. As a team, the Celtics recorded just seven turnovers, including zero from White and Tatum (who were the Celtics’ second- and third-highest usage players respectively). On a night when the Celtics finish with more steals (8) than turnovers, their chances are pretty good.
5. After the loss to the Pacers on Monday, Brown’s lack of assists and Jrue Holiday’s lack of offensive production were popular topics on social media.
On Friday, Brown finished with four assists, and while two of them were to Porzingis (who was out during Brown’s recent assist-less stretch), one was particularly nice — a drive, pivot and kick to the corner to find Derrick White for an important 3-pointer during the Celtics’ third-quarter run.
Holiday, meanwhile, finished with 16 points, five assists and zero turnovers.
“I think the matchups change once Kristaps is out there,” Mazzulla said. “Everyone slides down, and it’s a different matchup there, so he’s able to take advantage of a smaller guard on him sometimes. And then, we just play faster. I don’t know the numbers on what our pace was tonight, but it just felt like we got into our spacing and we were organized.”
6. Four of Jayson Tatum’s five assists resulted in 3-pointers. The other resulted in a layup. Thinking back to where he started his career — and all of the (justifiable!) hand-wringing that occurred over his mid-range jumpers — it’s impressive to watch how efficient he has become. His offense is now built around 3-pointers, hard drives to the basket and drive-and-kick assists that result in efficient offense for others. Credit to the 25-year-old star, who seems to recognize that improving as a basketball player also means making smarter and smarter decisions in addition to adding to your bag.
Tatum finished with 25 points and six rebounds to go with his assists.
7. Speaking of Tatum, here’s something to warm your heart on a chilly December evening.
8. After three days off, the Celtics now have … three days off. They will need their rest however: Next week, they will take on the Cavaliers twice and the Magic once in a brutal three-games-in-four-nights stretch.
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