Fournier Found the Right Garden


For much of Thursday night, Madison Square Garden fans dozed sleepily, blinking along as the Boston Celtics rolled over the New York Knicks in the first half.

Boston’s lead reached as high as 25 points while New York’s pair of southpaws in R.J. Barrett and Julius Randle failed to duplicate the 30-point nights they posted in Tuesday’s home win over Indiana.

The Knicks were struggling, scuffling for fluid possessions; altogether, they were sloppy.

Some of that messiness lingered late in the game — see how Immanuel Quickley‘s go-ahead runner manifested itself — but one Knick played a truly silky game, detonating for one of the team’s greatest offensive outbursts in recent memory.

Crime Against Former Friends

That was Evan Fournier, who lit the Garden on fire by scoring a career-high 41 points against his former team. 13 of those came in the final quarter. He also nailed ten three-pointers, tying the franchise record J.R. Smith set in 2014 against the Heat.

Oh, and did we mention that he scored zero points on Tuesday against the Pacers?

Fournier has scored 30 points or more in all three games against Boston this year. He is one of six Knicks all-time to accomplish that feat in a single season, joining Patrick Ewing, Walt Frazier, Bob McAdoo, Ray Williams and Richie Guerin.

The euphoria of Thursday’s buzzer-beating win aside, Fournier’s numbers against the Celtics are the epitome of the Knicks’ unsteadiness this season.

  • Evan Fournier in 2020-21 vs. Celtics (3 G): 35.0 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 54.0 3P%
  • Evan Fournier in 2020-21 vs. all other teams (35 G): 11.7 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 35.5 3P%

Small sample sizes can mislead, of course. But the Knicks’ recent holiday stretch beginning Christmas Day — small as it is — might offer some hope to a team yearning for a second-straight playoff berth. Prior to Christmas, the Knicks hadn’t won consecutive games at any point since their 5-1 stat.

Now they’ve won five of their last seven. Prior to Christmas, Julius Randle often looked lost on the court, but he’s been solid in back-to-back games.

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Knicks Need Everybody

What Fournier’s Thursday explosion represents is that the Knicks cannot be do-or-die. They can’t rely on superstar performances to sneak them over the line every night; they don’t have a superstar. But down the stretch against the Celtics, the Knicks did string together a handful of efficient, seamless positions; everyone touching the ball, swinging it around the perimeter to find a better look.

They need more of that, and fewer exhausting drives into nothingness at the basket. Robert Williams, a mountain beneath the rim, made the Knicks sweat all night in the paint. Distribution and balance are keys for any successful NBA offense.

But when the hot hand arises, you feed it. Over and over again until the laws of mathematics begin to lean the other way. They never did for Evan Fournier on Thursday. Knicks fans will hope the laws of the heat check remain in Fournier’s favor throughout the four-year deal he inked this past offseason, even if it’s just against those pesky Celtics.

He won’t have to wait long to do it again. The Knicks visit Boston for their final meeting of the year on Saturday night.

About Elijah Ackerman

Philadelphia-born Knicks fan and mid-range jumper specialist.

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