Jaylen Brown scored 25 for Boston, which had the best record in the Eastern Conference after winning five in a row but suffered its biggest blowout and lowest-scoring output of the season.
“I don’t believe that’s who this team is,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “We had a clunker. You try to have as few of those as you can. … We just looked like we were in mud today.”
All-Star Kemba Walker made his season debut after missing the first 11 games with a left knee injury but left in the third quarter with a rib injury. Fellow Celtics All-Star Jayson Tatum missed his second straight game with COVID-19.
The Knicks led by as many as 11 in the first quarter and made it 15 in the second before scoring the first 10 points in the third quarter to open a 58-35 lead. The Celtics never got closer than 18 after that.
“They’ve played extremely well short-handed, and dealing with a lot of tough stuff with guys being out,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. “Sometimes when you get guys back, there’s another adjustment you have to go through. … Getting Kemba back, there was an adjustment for them.”
Walker went to the locker room after taking a shot to the ribs while getting boxed out by Nerlens Noel in the third quarter. Walker said he simply got the wind knocked out of him. He did not return, but he already had played 20 minutes, which was his limit.
Walker scored nine points on 3-of-13 shooting, adding three rebounds, four assists and three steals but committing five turnovers. He was 1 for 8 from 3-point range.
“It felt really good to be out there. Really good. I almost forgot how it felt,” Walker said. “Free, which I haven’t been for a very, very, very long time. It feels weird not having pain, if that makes sense.”
The Knicks had a 38-25 edge in bench scoring, led by Immanuel Quickley‘s 17 points and eight assists.
“It’s just his craftiness,” Thibodeau said. “He’s got every shot you can imagine.”
Reigning NCAA player of the year and No. 8 overall draft pick Obi Toppin added 12 points and five rebounds in 17 minutes – his most extensive action since injuring his left calf in the opener. He missed 10 consecutive games before returning on Wednesday.
“He was terrific in training camp,” Thibodeau said. “To get an injury like he had, it’s not an easy thing to deal with – particularly for a guy going through the league for the first time.”