Charles Barkley Rips Celtics for 'Going Through the Motions' in Ugly Loss vs. Knicks

Screengrab via TNT

The Boston Celtics, owners of the NBA's best record, lost 118–109 to the New York Knicks on Thursday in a game in which the score appears closer than it actually was.

Boston trotted out its typical starting five but played rather uninspired and trailed by 21 points at halftime. The Knicks built up a 31-point advantage in the third quarter before the Celtics' reserves chipped away at New York's lead in the game's closing minutes.

At halftime, NBA on TNT analyst Charles Barkley had seen enough.

"If they are going to play like that, they shouldn't play," Barkley said to host Ernie Johnson.

The Celtics don't have anything to play for other than tuning up for the first round of the NBA playoffs. They clinched the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference in March, securing home-court advantage throughout the entire postseason.

But Barkley issued a warning to Boston by looking back at a time in his career when he experienced something similar—his 1992-93 Phoenix Suns that finished the regular season with the NBA's best record.

"We had the best record in the NBA, and we shut it down the last two weeks of the season," Barkley said. "It took us two rounds of the playoffs to get it back."

The Suns started that playoff run awfully sluggish, losing the first two games of a best-of-five first-round series to the Los Angeles Lakers. Phoenix had to rattle off three straight wins to advance to the second round, including a drama-filled 112–104 overtime win in the deciding Game 5.

"I've always said to myself ... I regret it to this day," Barkley said. "Man, you play 'til the end of the season. ... I know they're going to finish with the best record, but man, you can't turn it off and turn it on again."

The 1992-93 Suns, of course, went on to lose to the Chicago Bulls in six games in what was Barkley's lone NBA Finals appearance. The 2023-24 Celtics are looking to get back to basketball's biggest stage after falling short in 2022.

Kristen Wong


Kristen Wong is a Staff Writer on the Breaking & Trending News Team at Sports Illustrated. She has been a sports journalist since 2020. Before joining SI, Kristen covered four NFL teams as an associate editor with the FanSided NFL Network and worked as a staff writer for the brand’s flagship site. She has written about soccer, the NFL, NBA, and MLB since 2020, and outside of work, has dreams of running her own sporty dive bar.