BOSTON — Marcus Morris said before the Boston encounter that he was insulted the Celtics never called during free agency.
Snapping out of a shooting slump, Morris did all he could Friday in a heroic fourth quarter to try to punish them, finishing with 29 points and a late, game-tying 3-pointer.
But it was all for naught. Inbounding with four seconds left, the Celtics’ young stud Jayson Tatum won it for the Celtics with a tough, fallaway 21-foot jumper from the right corner with 1.3 seconds left over rookie RJ Barrett to give Boston a 104-102 victory Friday at TD Garden.
“I played well, but at the end of the day I’m trying to get wins,’’ Morris said. “I’m here to bring wins.”
Another heartbreaker dropped the Knicks to 1-5, but Knicks coach David Fizdale had little negative to say after the latest loss.
“[Marcus] needed a breakout game, to see that ball go through constantly,’’ Fizdale said. “What better gym to do it in than the old one that you were in. He wanted that game to win it for us. The kid Tatum hit a helluva shot.’’
The Knicks had the ball with 27 seconds left down 100-97 and Boston fans chanting “De-Fense.” The ex-Celtic Morris was fouled away from the ball with 17 seconds left and canned both free throws to get the Knicks within 100-99.
Kemba Walker (33 points) made two free throws, but after Barrett missed a runner, Kevin Knox tipped the ball out to Morris, who drilled a 3-pointer with 4.7 seconds left to tie the score and set off a celebration with his teammates. Morris made 5 of 8 3-pointers.
Morris lauded his former teammate Tatum, said he’ll be a “great player’’ one day and Tatum called him “a big brother.’’ But Morris, too, was happy to snap out of his funk.
“It does help me find my rhythm,’’ Morris said. “Taking those open shots with no hesitation with confidence, it gives me confidence and motivation to work even harder.’’
Barrett, who was beaten on a game-winning shot by Kyrie Irving against the Nets, added 15 points but was quiet in the fourth quarter. But Fizdale wouldn’t blame anybody for the defense on the last possession.
“I thought RJ had as good a contest as you can have,’’ Fizdale said. “The kid Tatum turned to his left shoulder falling out of bounds. It’s just a great shot. Sometimes you have to just tip your hat to a guy.”
Said Barrett: “It was contested, he faded away, too. Tough shot.’’
After the Tatum make, the Knicks had no timeouts left. Morris had burned the last one after he got poked in the eye holding the ball with 1:33 left and the Knicks down five. No foul was called but blood was drawn as he crumpled to the court. A few moments later, Morris charged
toward the referees for not calling the foul but was restrained.
“Obviously 18,000 people seen the foul,’’ Morris said. “Blood was shed. No foul call. Bottom line.”
Frank Ntilikina started at point guard in a Fizdale flip-flop, played well with a chase-down block in the first half on Marcus Smart and delivering 10 points with two assists and three rebounds.
Four of the Knicks losses have occurred on the road and after having leads in the fourth quarter.
“Our defense was much better in this game,’’ Fizdale said. “We really took the challenge defensively. Offensively, I feel we trusted each other a lot more down the stretch. That was important.”
Despite the strong effort against a Celtics team missing Jaylen Brown (sick), it was a strange night for Julius Randle. Usually a volume shooter, Randle took just seven shots and finished with eight points and six turnovers. Randle seemed extremely frustrated offering two-to-three word answers.
“I’m answering the question,” Randle said when asked if his short responses were because of anger.
When asked if the double teams were extra strong Friday, Randle said, “Been every team.’’
While Randle seemed to be in a somber state, Morris saw positive steps.
“We’re right there,’’ Morris said. “We’ve got to keep grinding. Of course we’re not happy with losses. But we’re taking it the right way.”