NEW YORK — A day after losing a heartbreaker to the Brooklyn Nets, the New York Knicks host one of the Eastern Conference favorites as the Boston Celtics travel to Madison Square Garden on Saturday night.
Caris LeVert dropped in a layup with one second left in the game, two of his career-high 28 points, and New York took a 107-105 loss at Barclays Center on Friday night. A Tim Hardaway Jr. fadeaway 3-point attempt clanked off the backboard and the Knicks dropped their first game of the season, after blitzing the Atlanta Hawks in a 126-107 win on Wednesday in new head coach David Fizdale’s first win with the team.
“(LeVert) is a good player, an explosive athlete,” Fizdale said after the loss. “He can really put the ball on the floor and his three-ball has improved tremendously. That kid can play, man. I think he’s going to have a breakout year this year.”
After shooting 46 percent on Wednesday, with Hardaway scoring 31 to lead seven players in double-figures, the Knicks (1-1) shot 40 percent on Friday and managed just three in double-digits, led by Hardaway and Enes Kanter’s 29 points each.
Boston (1-1) similarly laid an egg on Friday after opening the season with a big win. In their second consecutive matchup with an Eastern Conference contender, the Celtics fell to the host Toronto Raptors, 113-101, as Kawhi Leonard had a game-high 31 points.
The Celtics’ reserves faltered against the Raptors, scoring 23 total points, three days after scoring 44 points in a 105-87 win over the Philadelphia 76ers. Boston got 21 points from Kyrie Irving to lead all five starters in double-figures, but the Celtics’ reserves shot just 8-for-28 from the field.
“Our strength has to be in our depth, and when one guy doesn’t have it going, the rest of the team has to pick them up,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said after the season-opening win over Philadelphia. “And everybody has to play with great effort because the guy behind him is champing at the bit to get in. And so, I thought that all of them did their jobs hard, and I thought had great focus to do it well, and I think that we’ll clean up the offensive stuff. But if we can guard like that, we’ve got a chance to be decent.?
New York is getting major contribution from its rookies off the bench — first-round pick Kevin Knox had 17 points and six rebounds in 28 minutes against the Nets and Allonzo Trier had eight points after scoring 15 in 26 minutes in the season-opener — but the Knicks’ young veteran reserves (Mario Hezonja, Noah Vonleh and Ron Baker) combined for five points in 42 minutes on Friday.
Fizdale specifically singled out starting guard Frank Ntilikina for his play in the opening two games, despite the loss.
“He keeps giving me multiple things,” Fizdale said. “We needed some scoring, needed some spark, and he gave it to us there. When we needed defense the other night, he gave it to us there. He’s going to feel out his role as we play more games. I’m going to let him tell me what that is.”