The Knicks did not show up to play with the urgency needed in Game 4, losing in blowout fashion before returning to the Garden in a do-or-die battle.
This was unequivocally the biggest game of the season. Head to New York with the series tied and momentum neutralized, or down 3-1 with your backs slammed against the wall. The Atlanta Hawks (3-1) made sure to board their flight with a 3-1 lead over the New York Knicks (1-3), downing the Knicks 113-96.
Following another opening minutes where the offense felt stuck in the mud again, shots finally started to fall. Julius Randle scored seven points, R.J. Barrett added seven of his own, and, of course, the reliable Derrick Rose scored 10 to help the Knicks lead the game after one. Well-timed threes made it feel otherwise, but the Hawks were held in relative check. Young battled foul trouble at the end of the half, finishing with 15 points on 5-of-12 shooting.
For the Knicks, Randle and Barrett pitched in to help Rose, who finished with 16 points for the half, but Taj Gibson provided the lion’s share of the energy, jawing with Young most of the half.
The third quarter was a disaster for the Knicks. Randle could not get a bucket, Reggie Bullock provided absolutely nothing, all while the Hawks put their foot on the gas to extend a small lead into a 17-point lead en route to a 35-22 quarter. Any time the Knicks looked to cut the lead back down, the Hawks would hit a big three to extend the lead back.
It was a full garbage time period in the fourth. The Knicks had zero offensive punch and the Hawks threw haymakers. Tom Thibodeau’s team will try to stave off elimination in Game 5.
There were a lot of missed shots and some poor defense tonight; however, the worst performance of the day belonged to Tom Thibodeau. There were few adjustments made to anything. Bullock played way too many minutes while providing nothing. Frank Ntilikina quite literally grabbed a cup of coffee and that was it. Obi Toppin did not see a bump in minutes despite playing well once again. Thibodeau did nothing.
The reluctance to go to Toppin and Randle feels the most egregious, but playing Bullock 34 minutes when he couldn’t hit (zero points on 0-for-4 shooting) is malpractice. Ntilikina was given 30 seconds to prove himself in Game 1 and since then he has come in for 30 seconds a game.
Even outside-of-the-box ideas like moving Barrett to the 4 while Gallinari was in could have done something. Thibodeau did none of this. He went down with the ship when he didn’t necessarily have to.
This has been a prevalent thought longer than today but needs to be said. I miss Mitchell Robinson. More importantly, the Knicks miss Mitchell Robinson.
The glass is a spot the Knicks have routinely been hammered in without Robinson. Noel is a phenomenal backup, but he is more rim protector than glass cleaner. Robinson happens to be both and without that presence in the middle Trae Young really just has to get past the perimeter to wreak havoc.
TKW Clip of the Day
LET THE OBI TOPPIN EVOLUTION CONTINUE pic.twitter.com/jEvIcAAwjL
— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) May 30, 2021
This was the longest Obi Toppin has held the ball all season and the results could not have been more stellar.
- Scott Foster working this game was a bad omen.
- Frank Ntilikina once again checked in with seconds left in the first half. In a series where Young has had his way with most Knicks defenders, it doesn’t make much sense.
- Taj Gibson getting into it with Young most of the half was another reason to love him. Unlike Game 3, it felt like the Knicks matched the energy in the first half and the veteran played a major role in that.
- Reggie Bullock is many good things, but he is really poor in transition if he is not shooting immediately.
- Barrett quietly got back on track today. He finished with 19 points on 7-of-14 shooting to go along with five rebounds, four assists, and two steals.
- Julius Randle lost his cool towards the end of the game and rightfully so. The Hawks have started to puff their chest and the Knicks offense can’t get going.
- The Knicks have no answer for Trae Young and that continues to be the difference in this series.
The Knicks and Hawks will take this series to Madison Square Garden for Game 5 on Wednesday night.