Knicks destroy Celtics in stunning defensive performance

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The Knicks’ five-game losing streak is over. All it took was a showdown with the top team in the Eastern Conference.

The Celtics were missing Jayson Tatum and looked out of sorts, but the Knicks took advantage and brought the energy to run away with a dominating 105-75 win Sunday afternoon at TD Garden.

The Knicks (6-8) never trailed, leading by as many as 37 points to snap out of their funk and deliver coach Tom Thibodeau a gift on his 63rd birthday. Their defense led the way, holding the Celtics (8-4) to a season-low in points.

Despite their recent struggles entering Sunday, the Knicks now own blowout wins over the Celtics and Bucks, two of the Eastern Conference’s best teams.

Julius Randle (20 points, 12 rebounds), RJ Barrett (19 points, 11 rebounds) and Immanuel Quickley (17 points, eight assists) fueled the Knicks while Obi Toppin chipped in a career-high 12 points in the winning effort.

Amid questions about shaking up the lineup, Thibodeau stuck with the same starting five and they came out strong from the tip to establish an early lead. Randle and Barrett combined for 19 points and 10 rebounds in the first quarter to stake out a 28-17 lead after the opening 12 minutes.

Jaylen Brown kept the Celtics in the game early, scoring 11 first-quarter points, but they otherwise looked sloppy early after playing just one game in the past week because of COVID-19 issues.

Mitchell Robinson, after sustaining a contused right heel Friday against the Cavaliers, remained in the Knicks’ starting lineup but was quickly banged up again. Midway through the first quarter, Robinson blocked a 3 by Jeff Teague but landed hard without anything to brace his fall. He returned in the second quarter but appeared to still be moving gingerly.

The Celtics had gotten within six points, 35-29, midway through the second quarter, but Quickley delivered yet another jolt off the bench to fuel the Knicks’ surge. The rookie point guard set up an alley-oop for Toppin, then hurt the Celtics with three floaters on the next five possessions to take a 44-29 lead as Quickley racked up 11 points in the second quarter alone.

The Knicks took a 48-35 lead into halftime, with the 35 points marking a season-low in points allowed in a single half.

Thibodeau’s crew offered no letdown to start the second half, going on a 10-0 run to begin the third quarter and shutting down any chance of a Celtics comeback.

Kemba Walker, the Bronx native who the Knicks missed out on in the summer of 2019, was making his season debut after dealing with a knee injury. He looked plenty rusty, though, contributing to the Celtics’ rough afternoon.

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