ELECTRIFYING. Randle Leads NY to 123-112 Win Over Atlanta. 5 Reasons Why

Imagine if the fans had been there. Julius Randle — playing as good a ball as anyone ever on the Knicks — lit up the Garden for 44 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists to lead NY over the rival Atlanta Hawks in an electrifying game that the Knicks pulled into the win column in the final 4 minutes.

Here’s 5 reasons how it went down:

1. Randle

It was a total team effort — but Julius Randle led that effort. He is playing as good a ball as anyone ever on the Knicks. As good a ball as Patrick Ewing. As good a ball as Bernard King. As good a ball as Carmelo Anthony. As good a ball as Walt Frazier. That’s the pantheon he is in. Last night he was 14-22 (7-13 from 3, 9-12 in free throws) for those 44 points, and the high rebound (9) and assist (5) totals as usual for a +17.

He has total confidence on the court — as if he can score in any which way on anybody at any time. And he does. Power drives to the basket for slams, pullups, fadeway jumpers, and then the 3’s. One after another. Nothing but net from all over. Randle hit 7 (seven) threes’s in this game. Some at crucial moments in the 4th quarter.

His Defense is terrific. His passing tremendous. He is “spraying the ball” around the court, as coach Tom Thibodeau put it — making the Knicks a tough team to guard. Randle is playing the game with an energy, confidence, and dead-serious attitude and concentration that lifts the Knicks to a higher level.

2. Noel Turning Point

The Knicks jumped out to a double-digit lead early in the game, seemingly hitting every shot they took, and maintained that lead throughout the first half but Atlanta kept crawling back with tough D and team ball of their own until they took the lead midway through the 3rd quarter. When Trae Young made a driving layup with 6:32 left in the 3rd, Atlanta took a 7-point lead, 81-74 — and it seemed everything the Knicks had done early, wasn’t good enough — Atlanta had taken the Knicks best shot, bettered it, and was pulling away.

And then Nerlens Noel stepped up. Three (3) times down the court he blocked Atlanta shots on breakaways and sent it in the other direction for a Knick score. Instead of Atlanta moving into a double-digit lead, the Knicks tied the game. The absolute turning point of the game.

With 5:45 left and Atlanta up 81-76, Trae Young drove the lane and passed at last second, but Noel was there to steal his pass (looked like a block) and send it the other way for an RJ Barrett drive to make it 81-78 Atlanta.

With 5:18 left, Kevin Huerter drove the lane but Noel again was there, blocking his shot and sending it the other way.

With 5:07 left, Skylar Mays drove to the basket on a fast break but Noel was there again, blocking his shot and sending it the other way for an Elfrid Payton layup and tie game 81-81.

Within a minute, NY regained the lead, 84-83, and never gave it up. By the end of the quarter the Knicks were back on top 95-90.  Atlanta pulled to within 2 points several times in the 4th but NY never broke. Noel’s plays were the true turning point.

3. Big 3’s and D Down the Stretch

Down the stretch it was a total team effort, with tremendous Defense and big shot making by the Knicks.

RJ Barrett was Batman to Randle’s Superman all night — especially early when he came out hitting everything he took, and late when he hit several big 3’s late in the 4th quarter. In doing so he broke out big from a multi-game shooting slump, that had Thibs not even playing him in the 4th quarter of the last few games in lieu of the 2nd team that was playing so well.

In this one Barrett played alongside that 2nd team — Derrick Rose and Immanuel Quickley — down the stretch and hit a huge 3 from the corner with 4:58 left to make it 107-102 NY, and another big 3 with 2:23 left to make it 115-107 NY. Barrett finished 8-14 (3-3 from 3, 2-3 in free throws) for 21 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, tough D and a +12.

And then there was Immanuel Quickley. The Knicks secret weapon; not so secret. Quickley hit a big 3 at the start of the 4th to make it 98-90 NY, a HUGE 3 with 7:52 left to make it 104-100 NY, and had several key assists down the stretch to help secure the win. Quickley finished with 16 points in 22 minutes on 4-11 shooting (4-8 from 3).

Derrick Rose led the Knicks in the final quarter, Thibs trusting his offense over Payton despite the fact that Payton was having a terrific game thru 3 quarters, and Rose started out the 4th a little off his game (missing some inside layups). But Rose was steadfast down the stretch and finished with 8 pts (on 3-9 shooting), 3 assists, and a +8 in 24 minutes.

4. Payton’s D on Young

Payton got the Knicks rolling early, out to that 11-pt lead in the 1st quarter, and was seen all night playing tenacious defense against Trae Young — running around and fighting thru screens all night, and staying in front of Young — frustrating him at times. When Payton’s hounding D caused Young to throw a pass out of bounds in the 2nd quarter it was a Knick highlight of the evening.

Payton finished with 12 points on 5-12 shooting, 7 rebounds, 1 assist, and a +3 in 24 minutes. Young had 23 points but on 6-19 shooting (1-4 from 3), and was aided all night by the refs — going 10-12 from the free throw line. Young has denigrated into a style of play where he is constantly seeking a foul — banging into anyone nearby to try and draw it. On one play in the 2nd half, Rose used a screen to lose Young, and Young threw himself at the screener, then threw up his arms to try to draw an off-the-ball foul call. Players do that all the time but the way Young did it seemed cartoonish.

5. No “I” in Team

So Payton got 24 minutes, Rose got 24 minutes, and Quickley got 22 minutes: Thibs spreading the minutes.

Most importantly, the Knicks are playing as a team that is totally together. Rose has mentioned it, and you saw it last night as the game ended and Julius Randle was scheduled to do the post-game interview, by a microphone set up off court — and Barrett, Theo Pinson, and Quickley unexpectedly joined him to tell the world he should be on the All Star team.

Other Knicks

Obi Toppin hit a big 3 and looked good in 11 minutes; Taj Gibson played a strong game as the backup center to Noel. Noel played the 4th with 5 fouls. Alec Burks and Reggie Bullock had their usual, strong D and 3 games.

For Atlanta, Clint Capella was a pain for the Knicks all night with his torrid inside game. He had 15 points, 18 rebounds, and 2 blocks. John Collins had a tough time trying to guard Randle all night; Collins finished with 19 pts.

The Boxscore


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