The New York Knicks (33-27) defeated the Atlanta Hawks (29-30) in by a final score of 122-101 thanks to a well-rounded team effort.

The Knicks moved into sixth place in the Eastern Conference with the win over their inter-division foes Trae Young and his Hawks, and they finished up with their best record before the All-Star break in 10 years.

The Knicks typically have the Hawks’ number in the regular season, but they dropped their most recent contest against Atlanta in late January.

But that was before the electric stretch of play that Jalen Brunson has had for the last 10 games (30.1 points, 5.9 assists, and 3.5 rebounds per game) and the addition of defensive wing Josh Hart. So, New York certainly stood a chance against Atlanta this time around.

 

Brunson and Julius Randle kicked off the Knicks’ scoring in the first quarter while the Hawks’ scoring was stagnant against a solid New York defense. Randle was particularly hot on offense, hitting his first five shots and scoring eight points in the first five minutes on the floor. He finished the period with 12 points.  The Knicks overall played a full quarter of very unselfish basketball which helped them balloon their lead to 16, and their defense kept the Hawks’ most dangerous scorers in Trae Young and Dejounte Murray to just nine points combined.

New York has a tendency to let big leads slip from their hands, so a strong start to the second quarter would be a change of pace for their new-look bench unit. Hart and Isaiah Hartenstein contributed big minutes on defense, while Hart also scored at ease on the other end of the court. Immanuel Quickley was giving a great effort on both ends of the floor after being pulled early on in the first with two quick fouls, and Obi Toppin hit back-to-back three-pointers about halfway through the period to put the Knicks up by 20. Between New York’s bench outscoring Atlanta’s second unit 25-14 and the starting unit’s dominance at the hand of Brunson, the lead got all the way up to 22 points by the half with no reprieve in sight for the Hawks.

The third quarter featured more defense from the Hawks who were seeking to climb back into this game. New York got decent looks but went scoreless for three minutes at the start of the quarter. Meanwhile, Atlanta was starting to click on offense as they drove to the basket more against a weaker post defender in Jericho Sims. Scoring on both ends was pretty stagnant, though, as both teams were trying to tug momentum in their favor with little success. Eventually, the Knicks were able to get back into the swing of things on offense with some strong shots from Randle and solid point guard play from Brunson. The Knicks ended the period on pretty shaky footing as they sought to maintain their large lead against a resurgent Hawks team, but they managed to keep things distant heading into the fourth quarter especially due to Randle getting several second-chance points.

New York needed to keep winning on the glass and defending on the perimeter if they wanted to hold onto their lead and to this win in the fourth quarter. The first few minutes of the period looked great for the Knicks with the bench unit appearing very active on the court together just as they did in the second, and with Toppin and Hart hitting big shots. Hart had to sit down early in the quarter after getting hit with a technical foul, so the bench had to roll on without one of their more defensively-minded guards. Hartenstein continued to fight in the paint for rebounds and recorded his third block of the game in the fourth.

RJ Barrett, who had an iffy game with his jumper, finally started to drive to the rim and find success – whether it was with actually finishing his layups or being able to draw contact from the Hawks trying to impede him. That, in addition to Brunson and Quickley slowing the game down at the tail end of the period, helped the Knicks to extend and keep their lead over the Hawks for the win.

Brunson finished up with 28 points, nine rebounds, and five assists. Randle had 25 points, 11 rebounds, and two assists. Barrett ended up with 17 points, five rebounds, two assists, and a steal, and Quentin Grimes had six points, three rebounds, and an assist. Jericho Sims had two points and six rebounds.

Quickley led the bench in scoring with 14 points. He also had four rebounds, two assists, and a steal. Hart had 13 points, five rebounds, two assists, and a block. Toppin had 11 points and one rebound, and Hartenstein had six points, 11 boards, and three big blocks. Deuce McBride had two assists.

Randle, Sims, and Grimes will all be participating in All-Star weekend events from this Friday until Sunday night, with Randle highlighting the trio with his second All-Star appearance in four years with New York. After the break, they will face off with the Washington Wizards in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 24.

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