LAS VEGAS – The Summer Celtics advanced to the second round of the Las Vegas Summer League tournament by downing the Knicks 82-75 Thursday afternoon at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.
The Celtics are now 3-1 during Summer League play and will take on the Miami Heat at 6:30 p.m. ET Saturday evening in the second round of the tournament.
Boston led by as many as 21 during the win but needed to fend off a Knicks comeback attempt during the fourth quarter to grab the victory. New York outscored the Celtics 25-17 during the final period and at one point clawing back to within four points, but Boston scored every time it needed to in order to maintain a two-possession lead and to finish off the win.
“Just a credit to the guys we have on this team, being calm in that situation,” said Semi Ojeleye, who scored a game-high 21 points. “It started with Jay (Larranaga) telling us just to relax, and realize they were going to make their run at some point and we just had to take it and respond.”
The Celtics responded during the biggest sequence of the game, while New York fumbled away a chance to make it a one-possession game and put more pressure on Boston.
Leading by four with less than three minutes remaining, Celtics guard Pierria Henry drove down the lane and attempted a left-handed layup over Mitchell Robinson. Robinson, however, rose up and swatted the shot away with his own left hand for his sixth block of the game.
Two Knicks were in position to grab the rebound, which would have given New York possession of the ball with 2:32 remaining and a chance to make it a one-possession game at the other end of the floor. However, those two players fought each other for the rebound and wound up losing the ball completely.
The ball bounced right into the hands of Jabari Bird, who was standing nearby and under the basket, and he dropped in an uncontested layup from the left side of the rim to push Boston’s lead back up to six.
New York would climb no closer than to within five points the rest of the way.
Ojeleye was the highlight of the game from Boston’s perspective. Not only did he lead the game in scoring while shooting 8-for-16 from the field and 4-for-9 from long range, but he also added in six rebounds and a game’s worth of lockdown defense.
The premier matchup heading into this game was Ojeleye versus Knicks rookie Kevin Knox. Knox entered the contest averaging 23.3 points per game, and he was getting to the free-throw line for an average of 7.3 attempts per game in Vegas.
Ojeleye played a key role in stopping those trends, as he put the clamps down on Knox to limit the high-scoring wing to 15 points on 5-for-20 shooting, with only four attempts from the free-throw line.
“Excellent,” Larranaga said to describe Ojeleye’s defense against Knox. “I thought he really was able to get into airspace and not give up penetration.”
Ojeleye was one of three Celtics who scored in double-figures. Jabari Bird added in 13 points to go along with 10 rebounds, four assists and three steals, and Guerschon Yabusele tallied 12 points, five rebounds and two blocked shots.
The Celtics will have Friday completely off before they return to action Saturday evening. They will be taking on a Heat team that is 2-2 in Vegas, with wins over New Orleans and Utah, and losses to New Orleans and Charlotte.