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Knicks score 49 points in final three quarters, fall to Celtics

The Celtics' Jayson Tatum drives past Knicks' Julius

The Celtics' Jayson Tatum drives past Knicks' Julius Randle during the first half of an NBA game on Saturday in Boston. Credit: AP/Michael Dwyer

BOSTON — When Julius Randle was introduced before Saturday night’s game, he was booed loudly, understandable given that the venue was TD Garden, not Madison Square Garden.

But once the game began, there were few taunts or boos for Randle or his teammates, which tells you plenty about how the Knicks played.

Shorthanded without Celtics-killer Evan Fournier, they got off to a better start than the one that drew the ire of the hometown fans two nights earlier. But a brutal second-half performance left Randle and the Knicks as an afterthought as the fans cheered Boston’s runaway victory.

The Celtics held the Knicks to 49 points in the final three quarters and turned a two-point halftime lead into a 99-75 win, thanks to a 55-33 second half. The Knicks’ offensive output was their lowest since April 3, 2018, when they had 73 against Orlando.

"I think that’s just going to happen sometimes," said RJ Barrett (19 points). "There’s a lot of games during the season, and for some reason, today was that day."

Randle’s troubles started earlier in the day off the court. Less than 24 hours after he apologized Friday for his comments directed at the Madison Square Garden fans, the NBA didn’t let it go without punishment, handing him a $25,000 fine for "the egregious use of profane language during media interviews."

Randle certainly isn’t the first player or coach to curse. The NBA issued a directive to teams last month attempting to rein in what it believes has been excessive profanity by players and coaches, and Randle was a repeat offender this past week, as the league noted.

He used profane language after Wednesday’s practice and again after Thursday’s game when he described his thumbs-down gesture to the fans as a message to "Shut the [expletive] up."

The Knicks hoped to move on from the controversy, distanced by a few hundred miles from the Garden fans who had gotten under Randle’s skin.

"It’s an emotional game," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "We all sometimes say things we regret later. He said what he had to say. He moved on. He’s focused on the next game.

"None of us are going to be perfect. I’m pleased what he did. Just get ready for the next game. He’s been here a while and understands New York. Like anyone, you have a bad day at work and you bounce back the next day."

This performance by Randle likely would have drawn the ire of Knicks fans as he shot 6-for-19, scored 13 points and turned the ball over six times. His boxscore numbers might look passable with 12 rebounds and six assists, but that doesn’t reflect his puzzling play.

"I don’t know if he was pressing," Thibodeau said. "They loaded up on him pretty good. That was anticipated. I thought he made a number of really good plays in the first half where the defense collapsed and he sprayed it out. We got some really good quality looks from the three. To win on the road, you have to play 48 minutes, and we didn’t do that tonight."

Immanuel Quickley had 18 points for the Knicks (19-21), who led 31-21 early in the second quarter. Jaylen Brown had 22 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists for the Celtics (19-21). Jayson Tatum scored 19 points.

The biggest contribution may have come on the defensive end as Robert Williams III, who blocked seven shots Thursday, blocked four this time and deterred many more Knicks from approaching the rim. Forced to settle, Randle shot 1-for-8 from beyond the arc.

Missing Fournier, who had scored 41 points Thursday and averaged 35 points per game in the previous three meetings with Boston, prompted Thibodeau to insert Quickley into the starting lineup. It was fine at the start but dismal after that.

"I think they were aggressive in the third," Barrett said. "And I don’t think we responded fast enough. Kind of just let it snowball."

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