Friday night, the Atlanta Hawks showed up at State Farm Arena with the intention of putting on a show for the fans that would ultimately pack out the house for the first time in over a year. They’d deliver a 105-94 victory in front of 15,743, the largest crowd since the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic.
What was the difference for the Hawks was the second quarter, in which they held the Knicks to 13 points, holding them to 25% shooting from the field. In contrast, the Hawks shot 67% from the field and hit five of six shots from three-point range.
“He doesn’t really have a weakness,” interim coach Nate McMillan said. “He takes what the defense gives him. He does a good job finding the open man when the defense collapses in the paint. When they don’t, he’s attacking and finishing at the rim.”
Trae Young led the Hawks with 21 points and 14 assists. Bogdan Bogdanovic had 15 points and 8 rebounds. John Collins had 14 points and 6 rebounds. Clint Capela had 13 points and 12 rebounds.
“It feels great,” Young said. “This is my first experience at home in the playoffs. I’m looking forward to having a lot more of these.”
The Hawks improve to 18-2 at home under Nate McMillan.
Meanwhile, the Knicks were lackadaisical on the defensive end and did not get any fast-break points tonight.
“In these playoff games, we need to find ways to get easy baskets,” said Knicks point guard Derrick Rose. “They did a great job of getting back.”
Rose had 30 points in 38 minutes. Starting point guard Elfrid Payton did not play (coach’s decision) and the 32-year-old floor general had to carry the load tonight. In the series, Rose is averaging 38.3 minutes per game, 24.3 ppg, 51.7% FG, and shooting 50.0% from three-point range. His play is carrying the Knicks through the first three games of the series. However, he was New York’s only shining star.
When speaking of lackadaisical performances, one can look no further than the Knicks’ Julius Randle. The NBA’s Most Improved Player was the most inconsistent and invisible player tonight. He had 14 points and 11 rebounds on 2-of-15 shooting from the field in 35 minutes of action.
Randle endured the incessant chants of “Overrated! Overrated! Overrated!”
“We just had one bad stretch in the second quarter,” Randle said. “That was the difference in the game.”
One key takeaway tonight was that Atlanta looked to double Randle while forcing Randle to shoot a contested jumper or give it up. Through three games, it’s worked. When all else fails, Capela can hold his own if Randle drives into the painted area.
Also, RJ Barrett was wildly inconsistent, as he was 2-of-9 from the field with only seven points Friday night. When combined with an 11-29 performance in games 1 and 2, the Duke product is shooting a paltry 34% from the field.
“If you’re not making plays with a shooting team like that, there’s no way you’re going to win the game,” Rose said.
Game 4 is Sunday at 1:00 pm.