NEW YORK — With less than four minutes on the clock in the fourth quarter and the Knicks down two, New York point guard Jalen Brunson drove the lane, then kicked the ball out as the defense collapsed, finding an open Buddy the Cat in the corner.
With Boston forward Jason Tatum closing the distance, Buddy slid both feet behind the three-point line and sank a clutch shot, giving the Knicks their first lead since the second quarter.
The Madison Square Garden crowd, already boisterous, launched into a deafening cheer.
“MVP! MVP! MVP!” Knicks fans chanted, dubbing the superstar feline the league’s Meowst Valuable Player.
New York guard RJ Barrett found Buddy with a no-look pass on the next possession and the 10lb cat sailed through traffic toward the rim, banking a layup to put his team up by three.
“Buddy now, driving and conniving, dishing and swishing at the basket,” Knicks color commentator Walt “Clyde” Frazier said. “A serendipitous fourth for the frisky feline.”
Earning defensive stops on the next two possessions, the Knicks extended their lead to six on a three-pointer by forward Julius Randle, forcing the Celtics to foul Buddy on the next possession to stop the Knicks running down the shot clock.
Buddy iced the free throws, then sank another pair after a Boston timeout to give him a career-high 47 points to go with one rebound, eight assists and 11 steals.
“If you’re [Knicks coach] Tom Thibodeaux, you’ve gotta like what you’re seeing from Buddy the Cat,” play-by-play man Mike Breen said.
Frazier agreed, piling on the superlatives.
“Buddy’s been magnetic and energetic, giving the Knicks strong two-way play with the matador D and splendiferous form as he displays omnipotence on the offensive end,” Frazier said.
The tabby cat’s career performance earned accolades from Knicks fans and players alike on Twitter.
“Buddy the Cat straight cookin’ the Celtics!” Cavaliers star Donovan Mitchell tweeted.
“Y’all see this cat? Unreal!!!” tweeted Ja Morant, the explosive point guard for the Memphis Grizzlies.
Not every player in the league was impressed, however.
“Let him try that move toward the rim on me,” said Lakers forward Lebron James, who has a 6 foot height advantage on the tabby. “I’ll swat that ball all the way to Chairman Xi’s house in Beijing.”
Frazier, who was the floor general for the Knicks the last time the franchise won an NBA championship in the 1970s, said Buddy is an essential component in the team’s promising core of young players.
“You don’t see a player like that every day, folks,” Frazier said. “A grandilomentitudinous performance that thrillified Knicks fans!”
Buddy is averaging 20.7 points, 0.7 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 6.2 steals per game on the season, and is currently the top-rated player at his position in fantasy basketball rankings.