BOSTON (AP) — Isaiah Thomas didn’t hold his tongue earlier this week in describing what he said was a Celtics team he thought was void of its all-around toughness from years past.
He thinks they took steps toward finding it on Friday night.
Thomas scored 23 of his 29 points in the first half, and Boston snapped a three-game losing streak with a 115-87 victory over the New York Knicks.
“We played hard. And when you play hard you give yourself a chance,” Thomas said. “We’ve got to figure out how to continue to do this and then get our swag back a little bit.”
Kelly Olynyk added 19 points and seven rebounds.
The Knicks have still yet to post consecutive victories this season, and played without Carmelo Anthony in the second half after he was ejected after picking up back-to-back technical fouls.
Anthony was tossed with 4:44 left in the second quarter by referee Tony Brothers. He received the first technical when he said something to Brothers following a loose ball foul call. Brothers walked away, but Anthony trailed behind and kept talking. He was then hit with the second technical. Anthony finished with 12 points and two rebounds.
“I was surprised,” guard Derrick Rose said. “He was still talking quietly. I didn’t get it. They have a history, I guess.”
Brandon Jennings was also ejected late in the fourth quarter after receiving consecutive technical fouls.
Without Anthony, the Knicks had a difficult time finding an offensive flow.
New York never led in the game, and trailed by as many 30 points in the fourth quarter. The Knicks have now given up 100 or more points in seven of their eight games.
The Celtics entered Friday looking for a faster start after struggling to score points in the first quarter during their three-game skid.
Brad Stevens made changes to his starting lineup in hopes of injecting some energy, going with Olynyk and Marcus Smart in place of Jaylen Brown and Tyler Zeller.
The moves paid off.
Coming off an eight-point first quarter in their loss to Washington on Wednesday, Boston scored 31 in the opening 12 minutes. Smart had eight points in the period, and Olynyk added five points and two assists.
Stevens liked the progress, but said there is still work to do — particularly on the glass, where his team was outrebounded 57-53.
“I’m just saying we have to get better,” he said. “I know you don’t re-find something and then it’s there to stay…we need to defend with the same intensity at all times like we did tonight.”
Knicks: Were called for a total of six technicals in the game. .. Committed 25 turnovers, leading to 27 Boston points. … Prior to his ejection, Anthony was New York’s most efficient player in the first half, shooting 5 of 8 from the field.
Celtics: Al Horford (concussion protocol) sat for the fifth straight game. Jae Crowder missed his fourth straight game with a sprained left ankle. … Boston had 13 assists on 17 made field goals in the first half.
In a pool report after the game Brothers said that both technical fouls issued on Anthony were because of “bad language.” He said the initial common foul that was called on him was because Anthony dove on top of Amir Johnson.
“You can’t dive on top of a player to go after a ball,” Brothers said. “That’s a foul.”
He said there is no “history” between him and Anthony.
Horford said he will accompany the Celtics on their two game road trip, and is hopeful that he could see action.
He worked out prior to Friday’s game said it included most positive signs he’s had since entering the concussion protocol on Nov. 1.
“I feel good,” Horford said. “I’m very encouraged by the progress that we’ve made. So I’m excited. We’re working on being back as soon as possible.”
Knicks: Finish up their short two-game road trip at Toronto on Saturday.
Celtics: Head out on the road for two games, playing at Indiana on Saturday and New Orleans on Sunday.
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