Knicks Crush Atlanta on Christmas-Day Game, 101-87

The Knicks jumped out to a 19-3 lead, survived an Atlanta run in the 2nd quarter, but in the end won going away in the noontime Christmas-Day game at Madison Square Garden. Both teams were without players due to COVID protocol — importantly, Atlanta was without Trae Young.

New York shot 20-50 from 3, and were led by a terrific all-around game by Julius Randle, a triple-double by Kemba Walker, electrifying play of Obi Toppin, and the splendid outside shooting of Quentin Grimes in the 3rd quarter.

NY snapped a 6-game losing streak on Christmas Day games. They hadn’t won since 2011. NY is now 23-31 in their league-high 54 Christmas Day game appearances. Atlanta was playing on Christmas for the first time since 1989.

1. Red Hot Start

Julius Randle did not have a great playoff series against Atlanta last year, averaging 18 points in the 5-game set after averaging 22 during the regular season. Atlanta’s big’s focused on him; and in the first regular-season matchup this year, Randle also did not shoot well.

But in this game Randle came out on fire and kept an aggressive efficiency going throughout the game. He hit a 3 and two 18-footers early as the Knick starters jumped out to a 19-3 and 23-8 start.

Kemba Walker was penetrating and orchestrating, and RJ Barrett got off to a good start as well.

2. Fournier Repels Atlanta Comeback in 2nd Quarter

But Atlanta slowly got back in the game, on the scoring of point guard Delon Wright, guard Cam Reddish, guard Skylar Mays, and forward John Collins.

When Collins and Bogdan Bogdanovic hit back-to-back 3’s late in the 2nd quarter, Atlanta pulled to within 51-47 with 2:19 left in the half.

Evan Fournier then took over. He hit a drive, a 3-pointer, a floater, and another 3 to put NY back up 61-49.

3. Grimes in the 3rd

The Knicks maintained their 10-point halftime lead throughout the 3rd quarter until Quentin Grimes re-entered the game with 5 minutes left in the 3rd, and the Knicks up 70-59. He hit consecutive 3’s to give NY a 79-63 lead, then fed Evan Fournier for a 3 at the end of the quarter to give NY an 81-66 lead.

Grimes hit another 3 to start the 4th and the Knicks had an 84-66 lead.

4. Toppin Put on a SHOW

Obi Toppin put on a SHOW in this game — with reverse dunks, between-the-leg dunks, and 3’s from either corner.

Toppin’s high octane energy game on both ends of the court entertained the Christmas Day National TV audience all afternoon.

5. Randle, Walker and Barrett Down Stretch

RJ Barrett cooled off after the hot start and kept missing 3’s. He stayed aggressive however, and knocked down a 3 and hit two drives late in the game as the Knicks maintained their 20-pt lead throughout the 4th. Barrett only had 9 points on 4-15 shooting (1-8 from 3) but had a +12. He played good defense on Cam Reddish — who was an identical 4-15 (1-8 from 3) for 10 points and a -18 — and Bogdanovic (2-12 (2-8 from 3) for 8 points and a -17).

Randle also closed out well — and finished with 25 points on 9-15 shooting (6-9 from 3), 12 rebounds, 3 assists, and a +21.

Kemba Walker finished with a triple double — 10 points, 10 rebounds, and 11 assists. He didn’t shoot well — 3-12 overall and 2-9 from 3, but his energy and penetrations and kick outs carried the Knicks. He had a +19.

6. Robinson Inside Presence Helped

Mitchell Robinson provided an inside presence against Atlanta’s Clint Capella that the Knicks lacked in last year’s playoff round — as Robinson was out injured. In this game Robinson played 30 minutes and had 5 blocks, 8 rebounds, 4 points, and a +18.

The Boxscore

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