Despite a brutal third quarter in which they were outscored by 17 points, the Boston Celtics held off the New York Knicks on Saturday night.
The C's earned a 114-107 victory to bring their record back to .500 at 15-15. Both teams were severely short-handed for the matchup, but Boston was able to overcome having eight of its players sidelined (six due to COVID-19 protocols).
Here are three instant takeaways from the C's win. They'll look to carry their momentum into Monday night when they host the Philadelphia 76ers.
Celtics spoil Kemba Walker's revenge game
Kemba Walker returned to TD Garden for the first time since being traded to the Knicks last summer. It also was the veteran point guard's first game since being benched on Nov. 30.
Walker got the start and was New York's best player, especially in the third quarter when he nearly outscored his former team by himself. The 31-year-old tallied 17 points in the quarter to Boston's 24 and helped the Knicks steal the lead entering the fourth.
Walker fouled out with 2:06 to go, but he certainly did his part with 29 points (8-20 FGs, 5-11 3-pointers), six rebounds, and three assists. If the Knicks were able to hold on, this would have been a double revenge game for the four-time All-Star. Revenge on his former team as well as his current team for benching him the last nine games.
He wasn't the only ex-Celtic to put on a show Saturday night. Evan Fournier, who the C's acquired at last year's trade deadline, put up 32 points (13-24 FG) in the losing effort. The Knicks had been 8-0 when Fournier scored 18 points or more, but the C's found a way to put that streak to an end.
Celtics bench makes the difference
The story in this one was the glaring discrepancy between the C's and Knicks' second units. Boston's bench outscored New York's a ridiculous 47-3. Josh Richardson did most of that damage and was the reason the Celtics were able to squeak out the victory.
Richardson scored a season-high 27 points on 9-of-14 shooting and was 5-of-7 from 3-point range. When the shots weren't falling for the starters, he was able to step up in the clutch.
Richardson has been a revelation for the Celtics in his first season with the team. The 28-year-old has taken full advantage of his increased minutes in the last three games with 17, 15, and 27 points.
Payton Pritchard joined Richardson in providing a spark off the bench. He made the case for more playing time even when the sidelined C's return. The 26th pick in the 2020 NBA Draft notched 16 points (6-10 FG, 4-7 3Ps) and three assists in 28 minutes while adding a sweet defensive play to boot.
The Jays lead the way
With so many of their teammates unable to suit up, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown needed to be at their best Saturday night. The Celtics' All-Star duo got off to a scorching start in the first quarter, drilling 3 after 3 to propel Boston to a 14-point lead entering the second and a 15-point advantage at halftime.
Both Tatum and Brown cooled off from beyond the arc in the second half, but they did enough damage to lead their team to a much-needed win. Tatum finished with 25 points (his ninth straight game with 24 or more) and nine rebounds while Brown added 23 and most importantly continued to look healthy after shaking off his nagging hamstring injury.