Julius Randle’s fingerprints were all over Wednesday’s overtime win over the Hawks as the Knicks now possess fourth place in the Eastern Conference.
“New York, we here!” was Julius Randle’s message to the lucky few who were able to attend tonight’s game.
The New York Knicks (33-27) and Atlanta Hawks (32-27) fought for sole possession of fourth place in the Eastern Conference, and the anticipated matchup lived up to the hype.
“NEW YORK, WE HERE” pic.twitter.com/lnkMnU14ay
— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) April 22, 2021
Trae Young did whatever he damn pleased in the first quarter. Young, rocking goggles for a second straight game, racked up 16 points and dished out five assists to lead the Hawks to a 39-point quarter—the highest scoring total the Knicks had given up in a quarter thus far this season. The Knicks took it on the chin and responded with a flurry of their own. Randle caught fire (20 points, 6-of-9 shooting), Young cooled off, and the half ended at an explosive 69-67 Hawks lead.
There was no encore of third-quarter magic. Nerlens Noel left with an injury, which only made Clint Capela more of a menace. The defense overall did not pick up as it did last night, and that is with Young regressing considerably before rolling his ankle near the end of the quarter.
The Knicks faced a 97-90 deficit entering the final quarter and appeared like they had shifted the momentum completely with a 10-0 to take a 111-109 lead. The Hawks fought back. Bogdan Bogdanovic had a huge quarter and tied the game up with a corner three to make it 122-122 and send the game to overtime.
As was the case Sunday, the Knicks had a surprising air of confidence to them. Randle reached the 40-point mark for the second time this season against the Hawks. Noel had a big block, Bullock and Barrett had big shots, and Quickley hit the dagger. New York 137, Atlanta 127.
The Knicks are not peaking, they are evolving. They took the Hawks’ best punch and counter-punch and responded to both. Their relentlessness eventually wore out the Hawks and are now four wins away from their first winning season since 2012–13.
Why Is This So Hard?
Derrick Rose needs to see closer to 30 minutes a game. He is the best blend of scoring a facilitating out of the point guard group and playing great. Rose hit his first six shots of the night, posing a threat at all three levels, and had a couple of nice dishes as well. When he was in the Knicks played considerably better.
Rose did, however, foul out, finishing +15 for the game and scoring 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting to go along with four rebounds and three assists. It’s evident he is the best option at point guard, and it appears Tom Thibodeau is finally acknowledging it.
The defense never looked good tonight. Capela dominated down low in every fashion. Young was on pace for a huge scoring night before he went down with an ankle injury. The Hawks put up 39 points in the first quarter, the most the Knicks have surrendered in a single quarter all season, and always seemed to answer every Knicks run.
The Hawks ran out of steam, but 127 points are abnormal for one of the best defenses in the league. To still get a win in spite of this is something to be proud of.
TKW Highlight of the Night
IQ put em to rest pic.twitter.com/uVUcttht4d
— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) April 22, 2021
Quickley made up for a recent cool stretch during April with clutch playmaking and three-point range down the stretch.
- Tonight was the night for Elfrid Payton to be aggressive. Trae Young is many things, but a defender isn’t one of them and Payton went at him early.
- Reggie Bullock becoming automatic from three might be the most underappreciated storyline of the season. Bullock came in shooting 40.4% from deep over his last seven games and hit four first-half threes.
- It was remarkable that the game was tied at the half given how sloppy the team was in the first half with 11 turnovers.
- Why I am bullish on R.J. Barrett: he started 1-for-11 but did not waver. Following a nice dunk, he had a tough finish in transition. Then, after sitting at the end of regulation, he stayed aggressive and, in overtime, hit an acrobatic layup.
- Capela came in the league leader in offensive rebounding and lived up to that reputation, dominating the Knicks in the paint in general, but hauled in nine offensive boards and 22 total rebounds.
- Obi Toppin quietly pulled down six boards in 12 minutes. It feels like the rookie has more to offer if given the minutes.
- Tom Thibodeau did a great job tonight not forcing Payton back in late, but riding with Immanuel Quickley. Tonight felt like a Quickley night and the rookie provided 20 much-needed points off the bench and was an insane +29 in 30 minutes off the pine.
- The Knicks tied their season-high for three-pointers made with 19 tonight; Randle (6-of-8) and Bullock (6-for-11) led the way.
- Julius Randle scored 40 points on 11-of-21 shooting, pulled down 11 rebounds, and dished out six assists. MSG Network’s Mike Breen said it best after the game, Randle has had one of the best single-season turnarounds, he is evolving into a star while the team evolves into a winning team.
The Knicks will be back at the Garden for a matinee matchup with the Raptors on Saturday.