Knicks Shut Down Hawks. NY 122 Atlanta 101

The Knicks laid down defense from the start, and jumped out to a 34-14 lead on the hot shooting of Julius Randle, the aggressive play of RJ Barrett, 3-pt bombs by Immanuel Quickley, and overall streamlined team offense.

Isaiah Hartenstein, Josh Hart, and team continued the Defense throughout — Atlanta was never able to get closer than 12 points briefly in the 3rd before the Knicks upped their lead to 20 again.

The last time the Knicks played Atlanta in January, it was a close game before Atlanta blew the Knicks off the court in the 4th. That was the first game the Knicks were without Mitchell Robinson. In this game the Knicks showed they’ve made adjustments on their defense.

“We’ve had big leads in all the games against them, and didn’t hold on,” said coach Tom Thibodeau afterwards. “I thought we played with a lot more toughness when we got the lead in this one. It doesn’t take much to get them going.”

The Knicks did beat Atlanta in December — blowing them out in the end before seeing Atlanta erase an 18-point lead with a 17-pt second-quarter run — and lost to them in the first meeting in November when NY was up by 23 points in the 2nd quarter but were then assassinated by Dejounte Murray.

“Our leaders did a great job to start the game,” continued Thibs. “RJ’s aggressiveness, Julius with his aggressiveness, and Jalen with his aggressiveness set the tone for the game. I thought Quentin and Jericho gave us hard physicality. And then our bench came in. Once we got the lead we did a lot of good things on both sides of the ball. We played tough, we played smart and we played together.”

NY enters the All Star game break at 33-27, in 6th place in the East. Atlanta falls to 29-30.

1. Randle Came Out Firing

It was the last game before the All Star break and Julius Randle came out looking like an All Star — hitting his 3 and leading the Knicks in the 1st quarter. As Wally Szczerbiak exclaimed on the broadcast about Randle’s hot play, “he’s not going to Salt Lake City yet — he’s has some work to do. He wants to get a win, and a good taste in his mouth heading to the All Star game!”

Randle hit his first two shots — both 3’s — then hit a 2-pt jumper, missed a shot, then hit another 3.

Randle finished the night with 25 pts on 9-19 shooting (3-8 from 3), 11 rebounds, 2 assists, and a +20.

2. Barrett Came Out Strong

RJ Barrett was coming off a quiet night in Brooklyn when he only scored 4 points on 8 shots — going 0-5 in the first half and then 2-3 in the second half — ceding to Jalen Brunson and Josh Hart on a night when they were red hot. In this game he came out aggressively from the start, taking it to the hole for buckets.

Barrett’s 3 still wasn’t falling — he was 0-6 from 3 — but he continued to be aggressive all night in taking it to the hole. On one play late in the 3rd, he got the ball in the corner, but instead of taking a 3 — he drove to the basket for a power slam attempt that he was fouled on, and made both free throws.

Barrett finished with 17 pts on 6-16 shooting (0-6 from 3, 5-7 in free throws), 5 rebounds, 2 assists, a steal and a +10.

3. Quick and Obi Added 3’s

Immanuel Quickley was hitting his 3 in the 1st quarter to add secondary artillery to Randle’s shooting.

And then Obi Toppin came in and was hitting his 3 in the 2nd quarter as the Knicks ran out to the 20-pt lead and maintained it.

4. Hartenstein, Hart & Randle REBOUNDING

But it was the Knicks defense that was the star of this game — vs the prior game where Atlanta ran away with it.

NY stifled the Hawks — Quentin Grimes, Brunson, and Quickley denying Trae Young from getting loose and Isaiah Hartenstein OWNING the inside. Hartenstein was spectacular again with offensive and defensive rebounds, blocked shots, and energy inside.

On a series of plays late in the 3rd, Hartenstein had an offensive-rebound tip in for a score, a big defensive rebound down the other end, and then an offensive rebound resulting in a Randle bucket.

The 3rd quarter ended with a HUGE BLOCK of a Trae Young floater by Hartenstein. It kept the Knicks’ 15-pt lead in tact heading into the 4th.

“The rebounding has been through the roof,” said Thibs afterwards.

Josh Hart was all over the place as well — ripping down secondary rebounds and defending.

5. Knick DEFENSE

Hart and Barrett did a terrific job defending Dejounte Murray — who KILLED the Knicks in prior games this season, including the first matchup. Murray had only 6 pts on 3-12 shooting (0-4 from 3) and a -20.

NY also limited John Collins to 8 pts on 2-8 shooting, and -18.

Saddiq Bey — newcomer to Atlanta — was held to 2 pts on 1-4 shooting in 18 minutes.

De’Andre Hunter was the lone Hawk to give NY a hard time — breaking into the lane for jumpers or drives and scoring 20 pts on 9-15 shooting.

Amazingly, without knowledge to the viewer watching the game — Tom Thibodeau played QGrimes, Quickley, and Hart exactly 24 minutes each. Master stroke.

6. Brunson 28 Pts the High Scorer

And all of that doesn’t mention Jalen Brunson who simply led the team all night and was high scorer with 28 points on 10-19 shooting (1-6 from 3, 7-8 in free throws), 9 rebounds, and 5 assists.

Incredibly, he is not going to the All Star game.

7. McMillan System = Trae’s Shooting Woes?

Trae Young is second in the NBA in assists with 10.3 a game (James Harden leads with 10.5 apg) but he is having shooting woes this year — shooting only .326 from 3 and .430 overall despite scoring 26.9 ppg. Some fans are blaming coach Nate McMillan‘s system for Young’s low shooting percentages, because Young is not playing with the freedom and creativity as he did pre-McMillan.

As @Johntooturnt tweeted, “Y’all want Trae Young to take smarter shots & distribute the ball better and that’s why we suck. We haven’t been a threat since he was pulling from anywhere like he ain’t gaf but those were “bad shot” to y’all. Never wanna see a Nate McMillan system ever again.”


Before the game it was revealed that Josh Hart’s great Uncle is Yankee legend Elston Howard!

When asked what he’d be doing during the All Star break, coach Tom Thibodeau said he’d be going to Club Tarrytown (the Knicks practice facility).

The Boxscore



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