Tom Thibodeau’s Knicks were a great regular season team, but their shortcomings were exposed in that depressing first-round streak against the Hawks.
Julius Randle was a little better and RJ Barrett was a lot better, but none was nearly enough to put down the guns of Atlanta as the Hawks marginalized the Knicks with the 113-96 win on Sunday before 16,458 in the rough State Farm Arena.
The Knicks are in a 3: 1-hole in the best-of-seven series and have never returned from this deficit in their history. Only 13 teams in 260 cases have ever recovered from a 3-1 deficit.
Game 5 is back in the garden on Wednesday. In the fourth quarter, Atlanta fans began singing “Hawks in Five” as they got up by 23 points.
Randle shot 24 percent that afternoon, hitting his playoff high of 23 points. He added seven assists and 10 rebounds but only shot 7:19 and made five turnovers. He was on the receiving end of “overrated” chants throughout the game.
Barrett added 21 points in a good outing. and Derrick Rose was back with 18 points, although 10 points came in the first eight minutes.
But they had nothing else. They couldn’t get anything from the goalless Reggie Bullock (0-4, three missed 3 points) or enough constancy from Alec Burks (4-12).
Atlanta tore off a 15-5 run to make the second half to begin and take a 68:54 lead. Trae Young (27 points, nine assists) started the climb with a 3-pointer and a floater. John Collins finished the race with a tough, competitive foul line jumper over Randle and an open 3-pointer. They led 88-71 after three quarters on a Bogdan Bogdanovic 3-pointer. Six Hawks posted double-digit results.
The Knicks went head-to-toe with the Hawks, leading by five points in the second quarter. But a sloppy sequence cost her momentum. Randle missed a short jumper and put Young on a quick break when flashy point guard John Collins threw a pass for a monstrous slam.
Randle turned it around and Bogdanovic came down and took a 3, giving the Hawks a 2 : 20 to get the biggest lead of the half at 51-44. The Hawks were leading 53-49 in the break.
Randle put up 12 points in the first half and shot only 4-12, but looked more like himself in his decisions. Barrett scored seven points after a quarter – his total in Game 3. Barrett sprinkled a power drive, a 3-pointer and two free throws with another powerful foray into the basket. The Knicks led 26-25 after one.
New starting center Taj Gibson expected the Knicks to jump back with a vengeance – as they have been doing all season.
“If you are for that playoff run playing for the Knicks, we’ve already prepared a bit mentally, “said Gibson before the game. “Because when you play in New York City all year round, you’re constantly being criticized, ridiculed, and that prepares you. That’s why our team is so tight. So we’re so ready to relax. That’s our mentality . “
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