NEW YORK — A frustrating night for Jayson Tatum ended early, as the Boston Celtics superstar was given a second technical foul and his first career ejection with 3 minutes, 46 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter of a 109-94 New York Knicks victory on Monday at a sold-out Madison Square Garden.
“I don’t know,” Tatum said, when asked what led him to get ejected in this game, compared to past times he already had a technical foul.
Then, he smiled.
“But all the great players get thrown out a few times in their career,” he said. “So, it’s good for my rep.”
Tatum had spent most of the game frustrated, as he not only was unhappy with the way the whistle was going toward him — he took just one free throw, a technical foul shot — but he also finished the game 6-for-18 from the field.
But after picking up his first technical with 44 seconds to go in the third quarter for taking exception to the lack of a foul call on a dunk, he reacted to the lack of a foul call on a missed 3-point attempt with a dose of sarcasm that would’ve made a native New Yorker proud and that earned him an early trip to the showers.
“It’s tough,” Tatum said. “The first one, no call. If you look, it was clearly a foul. And those are the ones that’s tough. You get a tech for something that you probably was right about. [On the] second one, I just told him this was probably the best officiated game I’ve been a part of.
“I tried to give him a compliment. Didn’t go over so well.”
Asked again about that line, Tatum said, “I said it was the best officiated game I’ve been a part of. I meant it.”
The Celtics, as a whole, were not thrilled with how the game went from an officiating standpoint, after New York finished with a 34-14 edge in free throws attempted.
Asked before Monday’s game whether he had seen any issues with the way Saturday’s win in Philadelphia played out, when the 76ers had a similar 35-12 advantage in foul shots taken, coach Joe Mazzulla said he did not.
Asked whether he felt the same way about this game, Mazzulla paused.
“How can I say this without getting in trouble,” he said, before pausing again and eventually saying, “It wasn’t the same as the Philly game.”
Ultimately, though, the free throw disparity had nothing to do with the fact that the Knicks outscored the Celtics by nine behind the 3-point arc, and that Boston finished a dismal 9-for-42 from deep.
“I thought we missed a lot of good looks,” Mazzulla said. “They do a good job of putting pressure on the paint, and free throws, and so if you can’t make open shots you constantly have to guard [them attacking the] paint, and they put a lot of pressure on our defense.
“I just didn’t think it was our night.”
It was, however, New York’s night, as the Knicks ripped off their sixth straight victory to move past their crosstown rivals, the Brooklyn Nets — who visit Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night — for fifth place in the Eastern Conference standings.
The Knicks got 23 points from All-Star forward Julius Randle, another 23 off the bench from Immanuel Quickley and another strong showing from recent acquisition Josh Hart (12 points, five rebounds, five assists) as New York continues to take on the identity of a Tom Thibodeau team.
“I would say, we have a team of leaders and we have a team of gym rats,” the Knicks’ coach said. “So, you don’t have to tell them, ‘Oh, we gotta go hard.’ If you got hard-playing guys, they’re gonna go hard in practice. They’re gonna go hard in a game. You’re not winding them up. I doubt if I’ll ever have to tell Josh Hart, ‘You gotta go hard now.’ And I think we’ve got the right type of guys.”
These two teams will meet again Sunday in Boston — with the Celtics hosting the Cleveland Cavaliers (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) on Wednesday and the Nets on Friday in-between. Despite being hit with his first career ejection, and seeing the Milwaukee Bucks pull percentage points ahead of the Celtics for the NBA’s best record, Tatum said he was simply happy to be heading home, as Boston hasn’t played a home game since beating the Memphis Grizzlies on Super Bowl Sunday.
“Get back home,” Tatum said, when asked where his focus is. “I haven’t been home in two weeks. I miss my bed. See Deuce. Just get back home, get some home-cooked meals and get ready for Wednesday.”