It was last call for R.J. Barrett but his shot off glass brought the house down.
Barrett hit the biggest shot of his young career as he canned a 25 ft, buzzer beater to give the Knicks a thrilling, come from behind 108-105 win over the Boston Celtics in the first of a home and home series at the Garden last night.
Barrett gets the accolades for the winning shot, but it was Evan Fournier, who went from zero points on Tuesday vs. Indiana to scoring a career high 41 points as he continued his personal torment of the Celtics. Fournier scored 32 points in each of the first two previous meetings against Boston this season.
“Maybe there’s a little bit of extra motivation, but it’s not something I do on purpose,” Fournier said. “Like I don’t wake up thinking it’s the Celtics so I have to play better.”
Celtics forward Jayson Tatum, who torched the Knicks all night long with 36 points, hit a step back jumper to tie the game at 105 with a little over two seconds remaining. The Knicks used their final timeout to advance the ball.
With 1.5 seconds left, Alec Burks inbounded the ball to Barrett from in front of the Knicks bench. The Knicks third year player took one dribble to his right and with Tatum draped all over him, Barrett launched the shot and banked it home as the Knicks’ bench and the Garden erupted.
Barrett jokingly implied there was never a doubt when he was asked after the game if he knew the shot was going in. “Of course,” he said. “Definitely a tougher shot. Jayson is so tall, but every time I shoot, I think it’s going in.”
The Knicks trailed by as many as 25 points in a putrid first half.
Julius Randle and Barrett both went scoreless in the first quarter while Fournier kept the Knicks afloat with 12 points.
Boston was 11 of 23 from beyond the arc in the first half as the Knicks trailed 63-47 at half time. Fournier had 19 at half time and helped the Knicks close the second quarter on a 15-6 run.
Randle came alive in the third quarter and was a like a man possessed as he willed his way to the basket and scored ten points. Fourner added nine points in the third as the Knicks trailed 84-77 after three.
Fournier scored 13 points in the fourth quarter and gave the Knicks their first lead of the game after his three made it 99-98 with a little over two minutes left.
On the ensuing possession, Tatum converted a three point play to make it a 101-99 Celtics lead but Barrett fed Mitchell Robinson for an alley oop dunk that tied the game at 101.
Immanuel Quickley, who also had a big fourth quarter with 10 of his 16 in the final stanza, scored in the paint to give the Knicks a two point lead.
The Knicks led 104-101 when Celtics guard Marcus Smart was fouled with 15 seconds left. He converted both free throws to make it a one point game.
Randle made one of two free throws to set up Tatum’s tying shot before Barrett hit the first Knicks’ buzzer beating win since J.R. Smith did it in 2012. It was the first buzzer beating win for the Knicks at MSG since David Lee tipped in a game winner against the Charlotte Bobcats in 2006.
Randle scored 15 of his 22 points in the second half. Barrett finished with 13 points and six assists. The Knicks shot 12 for 20 from three point range in the second half to key the comeback.
Randle took a page out of Javier Baez’ book when he gave the fans a thumbs down gesture in the fourth quarter. The Knicks forward has been taking some criticism for his play of late, and heard some boos in the first half.
When asked after the game what he meant by his gesture, Randle said, “Shut the f-k up.”
Fournier backed his teammate when he was asked about Randle’s gesture. “Honestly, no big deal in my opinion,” he said. “Julius is the image of the franchise. He’s the star player, of course he going to get more criticism.”
Dennis Schroeder had 20 points off the bench for Boston while Jaylen Brown added 16.
Knicks improved to 9-11 at home and have actually won their last three at MSG