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Three things to know: Knicks, Celtics remind us it’s about the game

We’re back. NBC’s five-day-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA has returned with the start of a new NBA season Come by every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before in the NBA, plus some of the rumors, drama, and dunks going on.

1) Knicks outlast Jaylen Brown, Celtics in 2OT game of the year candidate


Can the Game of the Year happen on opening night?

This is what Adam Silver wants — the focus on the game, not drama around who is not on the court for Philadelphia or Brooklyn or who is getting traded next. The Celtics and Knicks put on a show and reminded us just how amazing basketball can be and put the focus back on the court for a night.

The Knicks and the Celtics didn’t open the season with one game, they played four different games wrapped into one edge-of-your-seat (or walking along the sidelines, if you’re Spike Lee), garden-rocking, double-overtime opener that made a case for Game of the Year on opening night. It was impossible not to get sucked in, even if you were on the other coast.

The first game was all Celtics; they led 50-38 midway through the second quarter behind Jaylen Brown, who set a Boston record for points in a season opener with 46 on 16-of-30 shooting, including 8-of-14 from 3. In that same stretch, the Knicks looked terrible with poor defense, RJ Barrett was scoreless in the first half, and Kemba Walker returned to the Garden and started 1-of-4 from the floor.

The second game was the Knicks turning this around, going on a 71-48 run behind a monster night from Julius Randle — 35 points and nine assists — and the Evan Fournier revenge game, where he finished with 32 points and was 6-of-13 from 3 on the night (don’t forget he spent the second half of last season in Boston and was sign-and-traded to the Knicks). Fournier was huge in the OTs.

New York led by 11 with 3:45 remaining in the game, and were up four with :09 to go, all they had to do was close out regulation… then this happened.

Each overtime was like its own game. The first one, both teams threw haymakers, both got up off the mat and would not stay down.

In the second OT Randle, Fournier and Derrick Rose did enough to get the win for what was a raucous and exhausted Madison Square Garden crowd. The final score was 138-134 Knicks, but both teams can walk away from this game feeling good about their effort level and resiliency heading into the next 81 games.

A few other notes from this game:

• No post-Olympics bounce from Jayson Tatum in this one, he was 7-of-30 overall from the floor, 2-of-15 on 3-pointers. Obi Toppin had a strong game for the Knicks and played stretches of strong defense on Tatum.

• Kemba Walker had a rough return home to NYC, finishing with 10 points and more turnovers (4) than assists (3). That included a couple of ugly turnovers late and some defensive errors.

• Both young centers looked good — Mitchel Robinson for the Knicks and the Time Lord Robert Williams for the Celtics were each 5-of-5 shooting on the night. Williams added five blocks for the Celtics; they need that out of him this season.

• Barrett bounced back from the rough first half for the Knicks and finished with 19 points.

2) Sixers happy to focus on basketball, not Simmons, rout Pelicans

A lot of the media attention around this game was about who was not there. A suspended Ben Simmons was not with his 76ers teammates on the road. For the Pelicans, Zion Williamson is still recovering from the off-season foot injury he may-or-may-not have told the Pelicans about when it happened, and it sounds like he has some serious conditioning work to do to get back on the court.

The players, particularly the 76ers, were happy to just focus on basketball. Philadelphia reportedly had a team dinner on the road — it’s nice the vaccinated players could do that again — and then went out and picked up a comfortable season-opening win, 117-97. To be clear, the 76ers should beat a Pelicans team without Zion, but they seemed happy to focus on that end of the court.

“The main thing I’ve been preaching is just go out there and have fun,” Joel Embiid said after the game, via Noah Levick of NBC Sports Philadelphia. “By having fun, it’s sharing the ball, playing with each other. Like I said in practice, our attitude has been the same. We’ve been practicing hard. The same way we played today, that’s what we’ve been doing in practice.

“But it was good to get off to a good start, get a win, and kind of forget about the off-the-court stuff. Like I said, it’s not our job. Our job is to win games.”

Embiid set the tone early with 10 quick points and went on to score d 22, plus he had six rebounds and five assists. Tyrese Maxey got the start at the point and had 20 points, seven rebounds and five assists. However, the breakout star of the night was Furkan Korkmaz, who scored 18 off his 22 points in the fourth, including four 3-pointers.

The 76ers are not expected to practice on Thursday but will have shootaround on Friday before facing the Nets that night at home. Will Simmons play in that game? Doc Rivers hasn’t decided that yet, but it would be a surprise.

3) Hornets come from 23 down to beat Pacers behind confident Ball

Indiana was in control of this game, up 23 early in the third quarter despite not having Caris LeVert or TJ Warren to start the season. Domantas Sabonis was dominating, and it looked like the Rick Carlisle return to Indiana was going to start with a comfortable win.

Then LaMelo Ball sparked a comeback. That man plays with incredible confidence? How much confidence, well, he pulled this off after the game.

Ball finished with 31 points, with nine rebounds and seven assists. However, the best sign for the Hornets season was the 27 points and from Gordon Hayward, and he was the guy who took over in a tight fourth quarter.

One positive sign for the Pacers: Rookie Chris Duarte started and scored 27 points on 9-of-15 shooting. It will be tough to take minutes away from him as the Pacers get healthier; this kid is ready to contribute now.

Highlight of the night:

Montrezl Harrell picks up a technical for trash-talking Drake (which is a foul in Toronto, apparently).

Last night’s scores:

Hornets 123, Pacers 122
Bulls 94, Pistons 88
Knicks 138, Bulls 134 (2OT)
Wizards 98, Raptors 83
Grizzlies 132, Cavaliers 121
Timberwolves 124, Rockets 106
76ers 117, Pelicans 97
Spurs 123, Magic 97
Jazz 107, Thunder 86
Nuggets 110, Suns 98
Kings 124, Trail Blazers 121