A crowd that waited eight years to see another Knicks playoff game needed just minutes to make Trae Young its target.
Young heard the fans’ hate. Then he silenced them.
“I’ve always looked at it that I’m doing something right if I’m affecting them with my play that much that they hate me that much,” he said. “I’m obviously doing something right and just got to let my play do the talking.”
Young made a runner in the lane with 0.9 seconds left to give the Atlanta Hawks a 107-105 victory over New York on Sunday night in a thrilling postseason return for both teams.
Young finished with 32 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds. He frustrated the Knicks with his ability to draw fouls and made all nine free throws when he did.
He looked like Reggie Miller in the 1990s, feeding off a New York crowd — featuring a rowdy Spike Lee, just like those days — that cursed his name repeatedly when he made a shot or drew a foul.
“He’s small but he’s a tough kid and he’s not afraid,” Hawks coach Nate McMillan said.
Many in the loud crowd of more than 15,000 jeered Young throughout the night but he got the final word when he drove right through the Knicks’ defense and floated in his shot from right of the basket, then put his fingers to his lips to tell the crowd to quiet down.
“This is a coming-out party for him and he’s ready to do it,” teammate Lou Williams said.
Bogdan Bogdanovic added 18 points for the Hawks in their first postseason game since 2017.
Alec Burks scored 27 points for the Knicks, who are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2013. Derrick Rose scored 17 points, but Julius Randle shot just 6 for 23 while finishing with 15 points and 12 rebounds.
The Knicks host Game 2 on Wednesday night, when Randle will try to bounce back. He had two 40-point games against Atlanta this season.
“Got a game, got to feel it out a little bit and I’ll adjust,” the All-Star said.
Neither team led by more than six points in a fourth quarter during which the teams took turns regaining and then losing momentum. Young made a pair of free throws for a 105-103 lead with 28 seconds left after the Knicks unsuccessfully challenged the call, and Rose tied it with a basket with 9.8 seconds to go.
Young then brought the ball up and was supposed to get a screen from John Collins. But Collins’ sneaker fell off so Young waved him off and handled things himself.
New York hadn’t hosted a playoff game in eight years and hadn’t hosted many fans all season, with its largest crowd during the regular season 1,981.
So the 15,047 the Knicks announced Sunday sounded deafening at times, particularly when RJ Barrett slammed it over Bogdanovic to forge a 63-all tie with 5:19 left in the third, with fans chanting his name during Atlanta’s ensuing timeout.
The Knicks were able to increase seating capacity with the addition of sections for fully vaccinated fans, announcing during the week that Games 1 and 2 had both sold out and would be the largest indoor events in New York since the coronavirus pandemic began.
Random chants and cheers broke out even before players took the court for their final warmups, and the Knicks were greeted by a standing ovation when they emerged with about 15 minutes to go before the start.
But the Knicks couldn’t give the fans much to cheer once the game started. Atlanta jumped to a 17-7 lead as the Knicks missed 14 of their first 17 shots.
“Having fans I think is great,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said, “but we’ve got to play better.”
Hawks: Atlanta improved to 2-8 against the Knicks in playoff games, and snapped a four-game losing streak to them in all games dating to last season.
Knicks: Thibodeau brought Rose, the Knicks’ Sixth Man Award finalist, off the bench just 4 minutes, 15 seconds into the game. … Barrett had 14 points and 11 rebounds.
Thibodeau was asked his favorite playoff memory when his time as a Knicks assistant from 1996-03 and came up with two, both from 1999: Allan Houston’s series-winner against Miami and Larry Johnson’s four-play play against Indiana in the Eastern Conference finals.
“We had the Allan Houston shot against Miami. It doesn’t get much bigger than that and then of course LJ’s four-point shot,” Thibodeau said. “LJ’s four-point shot, I’ve never heard a building as loud as the Garden was after that shot”
In between those series, the Knicks swept the Hawks in the second round.