NEW YORK — The Celtics have been in New York for more than three days and their performance over the first three quarters Sunday at Madison Square Garden reflected a team that’s been tasting the City for perhaps too long.
And then suddenly the Celtics returned to their previous form, and so did the New York Knicks. Boston used masterful shot making from Jaylen Brown and a key 3-pointer from Jayson Tatum to pull away and beat the Knicks, 113-104.
Tatum led the Celtics with 30 points on 10-for-23 shooting while Brown returned from a quiet game against the Brooklyn Nets with 28 points.
The Celtics spent most of the afternoon languishing but were able to stay close and then took control with a 12-0 run midway through the fourth quarter, including a tying 3-pointer by Semi Ojeleye and then 3-pointers from Tatum and Kemba Walker.
Defensively, the Celtics forced the Knicks into poor decisions at the end of the shot clock and were finally able to contain bruising forward Julius Randle, who bulled over any Celtics defender in the first three quarters but struggled in the fourth.
Brown then finished off the Knicks with a pair of driving layups and a putback as the Celtics beat New York for the third time this season. Randle led New York with 28 points but New York missed 12 of 17 shots in the fourth quarter.
Here are a few observations from the game:
■ It may be time for Marcus Smart to get a couple of games off. He already had been nursing a sore right hand and then took a shot to the left eye in the second period that forced him to leave for several minutes. He returned in the third quarter only to take another blow to his abdomen in a collision with New York’s Kevin Knox. Smart has been nursing various injuries this season and said he won’t ask out of the lineup but he has been struggling with his shot and production over the past few weeks.
■ The Robert Williams experiment is going well so far this season but there are times when he tries to do too much, such as in the second period when he whipped a no-look, behind-the-back pass to no one in particular after chasing down a defensive rebound. Taj Gibson gathered the errant pass and streaked to a two-handed dunk. Williams was benched after the next stoppage and did not return.
■ There was a definitely more aggressive Jaylen Brown on Sunday after his eight-shot performance Friday against the Brooklyn Nets. That was his lowest shot total since Opening Night against the Philadelphia 76ers when he was saddled with early foul trouble. Brown attempted eight shots in the first half and finished with 14 points. Brown said he won’t try to force his offense when it’s not there.
■ Grant Williams finally broke through offensively Sunday when he posted his first two baskets since the Celtics’ Nov. 20 loss to the Clippers. Williams was 6-for-31 shooting in November and had only two games where he made more than one basket. Williams, who turned 21 Saturday, was working feverishly on his shot during Saturday’s practice. Seeing a couple go into the basket during games has to help his confidence.
■ It’s been a tough run for Carsen Edwards, whose shot hasn’t been going down and he has been switched onto mismatches defensively and picked up fouls. He collected three fouls and scored no points in seven minutes, and had to guard 6-foot-9 inch Julius Randle in the post on a few occasions. It could be time to give Edwards a break because he has struggled offensively and doesn’t bring much defensively.