NEW YORK — With so much new for Kemba Walker this season, it sure helped to have some familiar feelings.
Once he finished with another big night at Madison Square Garden, it was Tacko time.
Walker scored a season-high 32 points, snapping out of an early season shooting slump with seven 3-pointers, and the Boston Celtics beat the winless New York Knicks 118-95 on Saturday night.
Walker began his Celtics career by going 4 for 18 in an opening loss to Philadelphia, and even with a strong finish against the Raptors was only 8 for 22. But the New York native and former UConn star thrived again at Madison Square Garden, going 11 for 17 overall and 7 for 12 behind the arc.
“It’s great energy in here,” Walker said. “I’m from here, I’ve been playing here since I was in high school, so it’s just always good to come back.”
Jaylen Brown added 19 points for the Celtics, who won their second straight after beating NBA champion Toronto on Friday. Jayson Tatum had 15 points and nine rebounds, and Boston broke open a close game so thoroughly in the fourth quarter that 7-foot-5 rookie Tacko Fall was able to make his NBA debut, scoring four points on a pair of loudly cheered dunks that required barely any jumping.
“It was unbelievable,” Fall said. “All throughout the game I didn’t know it was going to happen. Once the score kept going up, I was thinking in my mind this might be go time.”
Rookie RJ Barrett scored 26 points for the Knicks, who were outscored 72-44 after halftime in their home opener and fell to 0-3. Mitchell Robinson added 17.
“That was an embarrassing second half,” Knicks coach David Fizdale said.
New York raced to an early lead and trailed by only six after three, but the Celtics scored the first eight points of the final period to make it 90-76. The Celtics then put it away with a 19-4 surge, featuring three straight baskets by Walker, to expand it to 109-85.
“It’s a new team, new situation for me,” said Walker, who had played his entire career in Charlotte. “But tonight in the second half, yeah, I felt great.”
The Celtics had a six-point lead with 5 minutes remaining in the half, but the Knicks outscored them 16-5 the rest of the way to bring a 51-46 advantage with them into the locker room.
Celtics: The Celtics were short-handed at center, where Daniel Theis didn’t travel because of a sprained left ankle, joining Enes Kanter (bruised left knee) on the inactive list. “So we’re slowly working our way towards 5-less, but we’ve got a few more left,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. Boston did have Fall active for the first time after missing the first two games while in concussion protocol.
Knicks: The Knicks have lost four straight at home to the Celtics. … Julius Randle had 10 points and 10 rebounds but struggled again with his shot, going 4 for 11.
Walker moved quickly to join the Celtics in free agency even though the Knicks had a need at point guard and the money to pay him. He understands why some players wouldn’t want to play at home, but that wasn’t why he made his choice.
“I think it can be a distraction just because you obviously grew up there and you know so many people, but that wasn’t the case for me,” Walker said. “It wasn’t even about that. It was more about the fit, style of play, things of that nature. Like I said, I just thought that Boston was the best fit and opportunity for me.”
Dennis Smith Jr. continues to struggle after being sidelined with a back injury during preseason. A night after going 0 for 4 in 4 ½ minutes in Brooklyn, the point guard was 0 for 3. Fans booed during his last stint and then began a chant of “We want Frank! We want Frank!” But fellow point guard Frank Ntilikina didn’t come back in, playing only 1 minute.
“All we got is us in this locker room,” Smith said. “That’s what we got to focus on.”
Celtics: Host Milwaukee on Wednesday.
Knicks: Host Chicago on Monday.