The Boston Celtics have begun their 75th season in the same fashion as their first: With a loss.
This was no ordinary opener, however, as the Celtics and New York Knicks put on a show in what wound up being a 138-134 victory in double-overtime for the Knicks at Madison Square Garden Wednesday night.
Jaylen Brown was the best player on the floor, pouring in a career-high 46 points for the Celtics and setting a new team record for most points in a season opener.
But the lack of a reliable second option behind Brown haunted the Green in Gotham. Here are some takeaways from Wednesday's season premiere:
Brown dominates, but Jayson Tatum struggles mightily
COVID fatigue didn’t seem to affect Brown early, as the sixth-year pro came out gangbusters, scoring 18 points on 7 of 9 shooting – 3 for 3 from 3-point range – in 8:21 during the first quarter.
Brown cooled off a bit in the middle stages of the game before heating right back up late, finishing 16 of 30 from the floor -- 8 of 14 from 3-point land -- in 46 minutes.
Fatigue may have finally caught up with Brown in the second overtime, when he missed a wide-open dunk after a steal in the backcourt and wouldn't score again for Boston.
It was not a good opener for Brown's fellow franchise pillar in Tatum to begin his fifth NBA season. Though he wound up with 20 points, Tatum did so on 7 of 30 shooting, including a ghastly 2 of 15 from beyond the arc.
Former Celtic a factor for Knicks
It really wasn't Kemba Walker, though, who had 10 points on 3 of 8 shooting in 36 minutes.
Evan Fournier, on the other hand?
The Frenchman, who was briefly a Celtic following last season's trade deadline, set a new career-high with 32 points for the Knicks on 13 of 25 shooting. The 6-foot-7 Fournier made 6 of his 13 3-point attempts, including one sequence of back-to-back-to-back treys in the first overtime period.
Fournier, who joined the Knicks via sign-and-trade in the offseason, became the first New York player to score 30 points in his team debut.
Grant Williams states his case to start
Williams was by no means a focal point of the team’s offense Wednesday, but with the team reeling in the fourth quarter, he did his best to keep the team alive with three 3-pointers in the final frame as well as a late steal and layup sequence.
For the night, the 6-foot-6 Williams finished with 15 points, five rebounds and four assists in 31 minutes. Until Al Horford is ready to return, the 22-year-old Williams is likely the best choice to start at power forward.
Smart, Time Lord inconsistent but have their moments
The only reason the Celtics were able to finish off a comeback from 11 points down in the fourth quarter to force overtime in the first place was thanks to Smart, who drilled a game-tying 3 with 1 second left on the clock.
It was another night of too much shooting from downtown for Smart on the whole, however, as 11 of his 14 field goal attempts in the game were from 3-point range. He had 15 points on 5 of 14 shooting, including the 5 for 11 from deep.
As for Robert Williams III, his only inconsistencies were a lack of consistent touches on the offensive end. Because when he did have the ball, he tended to score: Williams shot a perfect 5 for 5 from the field, and finished with 16 points thanks to a respectable 6 of 8 finish from the free throw line.
Williams also made an impact at the rim, blocking five shots and collecting 10 rebounds for Boston. This was, all things considered, a good night for the budding big man.
Julius Randle picks right up where he left off
The NBA’s Most Improved Player in 2021, Randle was a consistent force throughout the game Knicks. The seventh overall pick in the 2014 draft by the Los Angeles Lakers, Randle continued his renaissance Wednesday with 35 points on 12 of 27 shooting, continuously taking advantage of mismatches down low against the Celtics.
Randle narrowly missed a triple-double, dishing out nine assists and pulling in eight rebounds over 46 minutes.
Ime Udoka latest coach to lose Celtics debut
Including interim coaches, Udoka became the fifth Boston bench boss in a row to lose his first game with the team, following Jim O’Brien, John Carroll, Doc Rivers and Brad Stevens.
The last Celtics coach to win in their debut with the team was none other than Rick Pitino, whose team defeated Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls – albeit without Scottie Pippen – in the first game of the 1997-98 season.