Despite shooting better from the field than the Hawks, the Knicks interior defense struggled without Mitchell Robinson.

Needless to say, this game was a rough one. After three convincing quarters of play, the Knicks (25-22) fell apart in the final period against the Atlanta Hawks (24-22) in a 139-124 loss in what was an extremely ugly defensive game from both teams.

For the Knicks, Julius Randle got back on track after having his worst game of the season in his last outing, finishing the game with 32 points, nine rebounds, and six assists. This game snapped his streak of 12 straight games with 10 or more rebounds, and the Knicks could have used more of his rebounding tonight, given how thin New York is at the center position due to Mitchell Robinson’s latest injury. After starting 6-for-6 in the first half, RJ Barrett scored 23 points on 9-of-16 shooting from the field. Jalen Brunson did a little bit of everything tonight, scoring 19 points, dishing out nine assists, and doing some of the dirty work on defense, netting two steals and three blocks; his all-around effort was not enough to take down the Hawks in this one.

Barrett shook off his shooting slump and got off to a great start, early in the first he was navigating through the defense and taking his time offensively, but most importantly, he was not forcing his shots around the rim. The Knicks were led by their big 3 of Brunson, Randle, and Barrett early as they all worked in space to get high-quality shots. In fact, at the end of the first quarter, Randle was the only Knicks to have missed a field goal. As great as their offense was to get things started, the absence of Mitchell Robinson was deeply felt as the interior defense became a liability; Clint Capela was able to grab rebounds with ease.

The second quarter saw RJ Barrett take charge of the second unit and got his teammates involved in the flow of the game. He continued his scoring prowess, putting together some great moves around the rim. On another positive note, the best part of the second quarter was watching Obi Toppin get back to his old ways, off a feed from Jalen Brunson Toppin took the ball out of the air and threw down the alley-oop slam. Check it out here:

On the Knicks’ next possession, Toppin stepped out to knock down the three-point jumper, a promising stretch for the former Dayton Flyer as he works himself back into the Knicks rotation coming off of his knee injury. The defense was almost non-existent in the first half from either side, as both teams got to the basket at will. At the half, the Knicks scored a whopping 71 points but conceded 68 to the Hawks in a shootout first half. Despite the Knicks only leading by three, they had one of the best offensive halves in quite some time.

Coming out of the locker room and getting the second half underway, the Knicks had a less-than-ideal start to get things started. The Hawks got off to a 16-1 run which was led by Trae Young and his ability to draw fouls, baiting Grimes into fouling him on a three-pointer. Following a review from the officiating crew, the foul was then upgraded to a flagrant one foul, giving Young the free throws and the ball resulting in A Hawks a 5-point swing. Trailing by 13 points with under eight minutes in the third quarter, Julius Randle caught fire. His 17-point third quarter eliminated Atlanta’s big lead to keep things competitive for New York. The highlight of his hot third quarter was him nailing a contested three from the corner while being fouled leading to a four-point play. Even with a scorching hot third quarter, the Knicks found themselves down one, 102-101 heading into the final quarter of play.

With the momentum seemingly neutral to start the fourth quarter, the Hawks took advantage and never looked back. Without the presence of Mitchell Robinson, it became difficult for the Knicks to finish out defensive possessions with a rebound, which allowed the Hawks to score on second-chance opportunities on a few occasions. New York’s bench unit was out on the floor to start the fourth and tried to set the tone, similar to how they started the second quarter. But after a couple of minutes of play, it was evident that they couldn’t get it done on either end of the floor as the Hawks began to pull away led by Dejounte Murray. The Knicks allowed him to get to his spots in the mid-range game and he made them pay, scoring eight of his team-high 29 points in the fourth quarter. Bogdan Bogdanovic would heat up late and scored 12 of his 14 points in the final quarter of play the Hawks were unstoppable putting the final nail in the Knicks’ coffin.

Next Up: the Knicks up north across the border to take on the Toronto Raptors.

Other Takeaways

  • The Knicks were out-rebounded 47-37 against the Hawks. The defensive glass has continued to be the Knicks’ enemy in recent games, as teams have capitalized on their second-chance opportunities when facing New York. Atlanta was the beneficiary tonight as the Hawks scored 23 second-chance tonight. This type of rebounding performance shows how much the Knicks will miss Mitchell Robinson who not only did a great job securing rebounds on both ends of the floor, but he was the best when it came to boxing out amongst the entire league. Going forward, the Knicks will need to find a way to win without him and his intangibles.
  • Jalen Brunson had his best defensive game of the season; he stole the ball twice and managed to get three blocks as well, including a chase-down block on Dejounte Murray in the second half. The rest of the team netted two steals and no blocks. The Knicks rank 28th in steals and 22nd in blocks, despite ranking 11th in defensive rating. The Knicks’ inability to disrupt the passing lanes and protect the rim continues to be a problem for them and tonight’s outing was no different. It’ll be interesting to see who New York targets at the NBA trade deadline if any at all given the needs they need to address.
  • Immanuel Quickley finished with 11 points on 5-of-5 shooting in 36 minutes. Starting the game 4-for-4 in the first half, he didn’t attempt another shot until late in the fourth quarter when the game was already decided. Considering how adept he is at getting into the lane to hit floaters or draw a foul call, it’s surprising that there wasn’t more activity from him, especially since he played the majority of the game and he was the only Knick with a positive box plus/minus. His play regardless of if it comes with the starters or the bench is crucial to the team’s success, and even though he didn’t miss a shot, he did not show up tonight.

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