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4 takeaways as Celtics debut new lineup in win over Knicks

New York Knicks guard Donte DiVincenzo, center, is trapped by Boston Celtics’ Derrick White, left, and Jaylen Brown during the first half of a preseason NBA basketball game, Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2023, in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)AP

The new-look Celtics continued their stellar preseason on Tuesday night with a comfortable 123-110 win over the Knicks at TD Garden. Boston’s lineup was at full strength while the Knicks opted to rest the majority of their starters and that led to a mismatch early on. The Celtics led by as many as 26 points in the first half thanks to 16 made 3s, scoring 78 points against the Knicks’ B squad. The visitors made it interesting, trimming the lead down to eight points in the third quarter before Boston’s bench put them away in the final frame.

Jayson Tatum led the way for the hosts with a game-high 28 points and 8 rebounds in the win while Kristaps Porzingis chipped in with 20 points and 8 rebounds. Quentin Grimes had a team-high 22 points for the Knicks in the setback.

The Celtics improved to 3-1 in the preseason with the victory. Boston will close out their exhibition schedule on Thursday night in Charlotte against the Hornets.

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A look at a new starting lineup: Joe Mazzulla has plenty of options at his disposal for an opening starting five but we got our first look at a smaller configuration with Jrue Holiday, Derrick White, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Kristaps Porzingis getting the nod. The grouping is Boston’s likeliest option to close games but we saw plenty of reasons why it should be a nightmare for defenses as a starting five. Open 3s came fast and furious with opposing centers forced out of the paint to contest Kristaps Porzingis. There were a few areas of concern (defensive rebounding chief among them) on display but the upside may end up drowning those concerns. If the Celtics want to maximize their defensive versatility and get wide open looks anytime they want in the half court, this will be an appealing option for Mazzulla.

Boston’s offensive firepower is real: Boston’s starter set the tone in the early going but the Celtics kept their foot on the gas throughout the first half against the Knicks B squad. The Celtics knocked down 16 3s in the first half alone but seven different players knocked down attempts and all of them shot 40 percent or better from deep before intermission. Those high percentages were a little bit of shooting luck but there’s no mistaking the shot quality saw from this group. Boston repeatedly broke down the Knicks’ defense and turned down good shots for great shots. That type of firepower makes this group look like a look for a top-5 offense in the NBA this season.

Early hints of the opening night rotation: We all knew the six players that would see the majority of the minutes for this group while healthy before entering the preseason. Payton Pritchard has firmly established a bigger role for himself with a standout couple of weeks but beyond that, there’s been plenty of competition. With Boston’s regulars all in action Tuesday night for the second time this preseason, we got a hint towards what Mazzulla’s pecking order is at this point. Sam Hauser was the first sub off the bench to begin the game with Al Horford while Luke Kornet saw a few minutes next to Horford in the second quarter as a ninth man. Situational matchups could change in that slot but it doesn’t look like any of Boston’s new bench additions look ready to crack the rotation at this point.

Walking away from Evan Fournier remains one of the best decisions of Brad Stevens’ tenure: The veteran still was just a bench option for the Knicks on a night nearly the entire starting five was given the night off. Fournier is earning $18.8 million in the third year of his contract despite being relegated to the bench for the second half of last season. An ugly contract like his would have prevented Boston from adding big names to their lineup this offseason. Instead, he’s weighing down a division rival who will likely need to give up a draft pick or two to dump his deal at one point this Eason if they want a useful player for him.