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Beasley scores 32 as Knicks defeat Celtics

NEW YORK -- Maybe Michael Beasley wasn't so crazy when he opined about his scoring potential before the start of the 2017-18 season.

Beasley was serenaded with multiple MVP chants Thursday night at Madison Square Garden while scoring 18 of his team-high 32 points in the fourth quarter of the New York Knicks' 102-93 triumph over the Boston Celtics.

On a night that Kristaps Porzingis, returning from a two-game absence due to a sore knee, failed to register a single field goal and missed all 11 of his shot attempts, Beasley was practically unstoppable in the final frame while helping the Knicks pull away.

Knicks fans buzzed each time Beasley touched the ball and the MVP chants got loud when he stepped to the free-throw line. Beasley more than doubled his field-goal output on the night in the final frame, making 7 of 10 attempts. He finished with 10 rebounds in 25 minutes off the bench.

"I'm just out here doing what I have to do," said Beasley, who has scored 23 points or more in three straight games. "It is nice to hear but I'm pretty sure those chants were for KP."

Beasley was widely mocked in September when, before Carmelo Anthony was dealt to the Oklahoma City Thunder, he suggested that he could be one of four Knicks who had potential to average 25 points per game this season.

Beasley entered Thursday's game averaging 10.2 points and 3.9 rebounds over 17.1 minutes per game in 24 appearances this season.

On this night, teammates swarmed Beasley at halfcourt after the final buzzer to celebrate his big night. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, Beasley is the first player this season to have a 30-point, 10-rebound game off the bench and first Knick to do such since JR Smith in 2013.

The Celtics limped to New York fatigued and bruised from a relentless December schedule. Despite operating with just 11 available bodies and playing the tail end of a back-to-back, the Celtics overcame a 14-point first-quarter deficit and briefly surged ahead in the third quarter.

But Boston's lack of depth was exposed each time Kyrie Irving and Al Horford went to the bench. The Celtics led by as many as nine points after pulling ahead in the third quarter, but the Knicks erased that deficit before the end of the frame, pouncing as soon as Boston stars rested and ending the third quarter on an 11-2 run.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens will not allow his team to use its hectic schedule as a crutch, but the game-heavy slate has clearly impacted his team, which has now lost five of its past nine games.

"It's a long year. It's a marathon," Stevens said after a reporter noted this was the first time that Boston had lost consecutive games this season. "I just told our guys, 'Listen, there's a lot of things we can improve on, but that was the kind of fight that we can build off of.' The last couple, not so much. This one, we'll be OK if we play like that more often than not."

Echoed Irving: "It's the NBA. Like I said, everybody is asking me about the panic button. It is what it is. It happens. For now, presently where we are, just tape ourselves up and move on."

In part due to the team's trip next month to London, Boston has played a league-high 35 games through the first 66 days of the season. By the first week of January, Boston will have played half of its entire 82-game slate and, even when the schedule relents, the team will have to make the long trek overseas for a single game.

Boston was playing the second night of a back-to-back, its third game in four nights, its fifth game in seven days, and eighth game in 12 days. Boston was down to 11 healthy bodies after starting guard Jaylen Brown was a game-time scratch due to a sore Achilles that has become increasingly bothersome in recent days.

The Knicks made six of their first seven shots and built a 21-7 lead, but went cold from there. New York connected on just 6 of 30 field goal attempts (20 percent) over the last 16:40 of the first half. Porzingis, who missed the previous two games due to soreness in his left knee, missed all 11 of his attempts in the first half.

Porzingis scored his first and only point early in the third quarter by making one of two free throws, and he didn't play again after sitting with 5:20 left in the third quarter. The Knicks trailed 62-53 at that point, but outscored the Celtics 49-31 over the remaining 17:20 of the game, with Beasley scoring 28 of his points in that span.

"[Beasley] hit a bunch of tough shots. Credit him," Stevens said. "I don't think it was as much a breakdown as he got raised up over guys, whether it was Semi [Ojeleye], Al, Marcus [Smart], whoever was on him, he just got into that rhythm. And he's a tremendous individual scorer when he gets going like that. ... He deserves credit for that. That's what he does. He's a great individual scorer."

Porzingis was able to playfully laugh off his poor shooting night.

"It was one of those nights that nothing goes in," Porzingis said. "Kobe [Bryant] says you miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take. Tonight I missed all 100 percent."

Irving finished with a game-high 32 points for Boston on 12-of-27 shooting. Rookie Jayson Tatum, playing after dislocating his right pinkie finger in Wednesday's loss to the Miami Heat, added 17 points for Boston, which shot just 38.4 percent for the game.

The Knicks will be at Detroit on Friday, while the Celtics will host the Chicago Bulls on Saturday.