The Knicks received an old-fashioned beatdown in their first away playoff game, losing big to the Atlanta Hawks. They are now down 1-2 in the series.
Even amidst a myriad of struggles, the New York Knicks (1-2) competed vigorously against the Atlanta Hawks (2-1) at Madison Square Garden. But in the Knicks’ first playoff appearance at State Farm Arena in this series, they were exposed and embarrassed in a 105-94 loss.
This game was the ugliest of the series. Atlanta couldn’t stop Derrick Rose, who scored 30 points on 13-of-21 shooting. And they didn’t need to stop anyone else. Rose was leading a one-man effort tonight. For the Hawks, Trae Young dominated once again, tallying 21 points and 14 assists. Six other Hawks scored in double digits, including Clint Capela, who recorded 13 points and 12 rebounds.
After Rose’s inspired performance in Game 2, Tom Thibodeau finally made The Change, starting Rose in the point guard spot and benching Elfrid Payton. Fellow Thibodeau stalwart Taj Gibson joined Rose in the starting lineup due to Nerlens Noel’s right ankle issue.
Rose made an impact right away by scoring 11 points in the opening period. The new starting lineup’s offense was a world of difference from the choppy, lifeless offense with which the Knicks started the first two games. Rose’s feline quickness opened up the offense and generated much more open shots.
Unfortunately, it didn’t allow Randle to get going, as he misfired on his first five shots and had trouble dealing with Atlanta’s double teams. But he did punctate a physical opening period with a buzzer-beating triple that put New York ahead.
JULIUS IN THE KNICK OF TIME, and boy did he need that pic.twitter.com/ka5DoQamdg
— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) May 28, 2021
But while Rose undoubtedly helped the starting offense go, the reserves definitely missed his presence. Alec Burks and Immanuel Quickley didn’t have great success scoring. And that Randle buzzer-beater was the only field goal he made in the first half. In the second quarter, New York only scored 13 points. This pitiful offensive output doomed them from that point on.
Defensively, New York once again had trouble containing Young, who did his usual routine of hitting floaters and dished dimes to shooters. Danilo Gallinari and Lou Williams provided buckets off the bench. The Hawks went on a 22-8 run during the second quarter, putting them up by 14 points entering halftime.
Rose allowed the Knicks to keep pace with Young and the Hawks, but it didn’t do anything to change the outcome. No one else besides Rose may have even had a pulse tonight for New York. The team shot 29-of-80 from the field. That production will get you nowhere against a team armed with so many scoring weapons, who shot 42-of-81 from the field and 16-for-27 from behind the arc, tying a franchise postseason record.
Still, the Knicks hung around 15 points behind the Hawks all night. They only lost by 11 points in the end. One run could have put them back into it. But they couldn’t muster one up, mainly because the player who is supposed to be their engine is badly malfunctioning.
Julius, Where Art Thou?
Start putting pictures of Randle’s confidence on milk cartons. Save for a few moments in Game 2, it has been completely lost in this series. He finished the night with 14 points on 2-of-15 shooting.
Julius Randle has taken 54 shots this series.
He has missed 41 of those.
He’s shooting 24.1%. pic.twitter.com/T1PmMHSit8
— StatMuse (@statmuse) May 29, 2021
Randle attacked with much less gusto and his decision-making has been slow and passive. The litany of unintimidating defenders Atlanta has been deploying on him has been effective.
Even in 1-on-1 situations, Randle has failed to capitalize. Many of his shots are fadeaways with limited separation from the defender. Atlanta stopped double-teaming him because they just didn’t need to. Randle straight up refused to take his drives all the way to the cup.
Rose being able to turn back the clocks seemed to have come at the cost of Randle doing the same. More often than not, Randle looked more like last year’s version of himself. The Knicks are as good as done as long as that remains in this series.
- Randle’s horrendous performance might let R.J. Barrett’s struggles go relatively undiscussed. Barrett shot 2-for-9, unable to find himself any good looks at the hoop. De’Andre Hunter was giving him buckets on the other end.
- The Knicks are starting to master the art of the pass out of a jump shot. Second-guessing their shots and throwing often inaccurate passes to teammates (and sometimes opponents) is a momentum murderer during an offensive possession.
- New York assisted on four made shots in the first half. Four. Meanwhile, in the same half, Young assisted on 10 and the rest of the Hawks assisted on six.
- The Knicks’ pick-and-roll defense has been atrocious. Their off-ball defenders are a part of that. Those who are guarding shooters when Atlanta runs its bread-and-butter play are just standing near the hoop. They aren’t close enough to Young to deter his shots, big enough to deter Clint Capela, and are too far away to perform an effective closeout on shooters.
- Nerlens Noel had himself a solid game off the bench. He scored 12 points, grabbed eight boards, and recorded three steals.
- Rose’s best highlight from tonight might not be a bucket. He threw a lob from near halfcourt to Obi Toppin, who finished the job.
— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) May 29, 2021
The series will stay in Atlanta for Game 4 on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.