Kemba Walker, Marcus Morris
Elise Amendola/AP Photo

The New York Knicks avoided the fourth-quarter collapse, but they couldn’t stop Jayson Tatum and the Boston Celtics.

  • New York Knicks 102 (1-5)
  • Boston Celtics 104 (3-2)
  • NBA, Final, Box Score
  • TD Garden, Boston, MA

There are no moral victories in the NBA, but the New York Knicks‘ loss to the Boston Celtics almost qualifies. After the Celtics smacked the Knicks in Madison Square Garden less than a week ago, New York responded with some fight in TD Garden.

This was a see-saw affair from start to finish, but Jayson Tatum had the final say. His jumper from the corner gave the Celtics a two-point lead in the final seconds. Left without a timeout, the Knicks weren’t able to put up a shot.

As devastating as a loss in the final seconds can be, there are plenty of positives to glean from this defeat. Frank Ntilikina put up 10 points on 4-for-9 from the floor and 2-for-4 from beyond the arc. That’s really all the Knicks need from him on offense because he is an elite defender on the other end of the court.

Ntilikina is starting to play with much more confidence and he earned another night in the starting lineup. He and RJ Barrett complement one another well in the backcourt and they’ll benefit with the return of a legitimate backup point guard to spell Ntilikina. Barrett and Ntilikina played 39 and 37 minutes, respectively.

The defense from the entire team was excellent on Friday night. Head coach David Fizdale employed a switch-heavy defense to try and take advantage of Boston’s lack of a rugged big man without Enes Kanter in the lineup.

Marcus Morris led the way for the Knicks with 29 points, 15 of which came in the fourth quarter.

Morris was clutch against his former team, but it wasn’t enough in the end. Kemba Walker exploded for 33 points, six rebounds, and five assists, while Tatum finished with 24 and the game-winner.

A loss is a loss, but avoiding a fourth-quarter collapse is a step in the right direction for Fizdale’s squad. The Celtics are going to be a playoff team and the Knicks took them down to the wire in their building.

It’s worth noting that all five of the Knicks’ losses this season have come against playoff teams from last season. No one in the locker room is going to be pleased with a 1-5 record, but now is not the time to panic.

One area that must be fixed is the free-throw line. The Knicks were 14-for-21 from the charity stripe while the Celtics hit 27 of their 29 attempts from the line.

The Knicks will take Saturday to regroup before welcoming the winless Sacramento Kings into MSG on Sunday (6 p.m. ET).

NY/NJ hoops reporter (NBA/NCAA) & sports betting writer for XL Media. Never had the makings of a varsity athlete.