Knicks Get 1st Win of Year. Beat Atlanta in Atlanta, 126-120

The Knicks evened their record at 1-1 by beating Atlanta in Atlanta — a mostly free-wheeling game where the Knicks led by single digits practically throughout, and then made less mistakes than Atlanta did in the final minute to get the PHEW win.

Jalen Brunson and RJ Barrett starred for the Knicks — Brunson with 31 points and 8 for 12 from 3, and RJ Barrett with 26 points on 9-15 shooting and at times looking like the best player on the court. At the end it was Julius Randle hitting clutch free throws in the final minute and finishing with a quietly tremendous all-around game: 17 pts, 13 rebounds, and 9 assists.

“Can I learn how to not turn the ball over the last couple of minutes? That would be great,” said a self-depreciating Jalen Brunson afterwards. “But besides that, we kept fighting. That’s a good team over there; they had a lot of energy with the home opener. For us though, we just kept fighting and that’s all I care about. We’re getting in the paint, making plays for each other; being aggressive but still having that mindset of finding teammates. We’re trying to find an equal balance — we have a lot of guys who can do a lot of different things, and when we’re playing together it’s special.”

1. Free Wheeling Game

Atlanta is no slouch. They are a playoff team with Dejounte Murray their mercurial scoring guard playing alongside Trae Young; De’Andre Hunter at power forward, Saddiq Bey at small forward, and Clint Capela at center. Off the bench come sniper Bogdan Bogdanovic along with a couple of athletic forwards Onyeka Okongwu and Jalen Johnson.

Quinn Snyder is their coach. He had some very good teams in Utah; it was stunning that they fired him.

But it doesn’t look like Snyder has this Atlanta team playing optimal defense yet.

The Knicks were able to score at will against Atlanta — and Atlanta came back with 3’s by Bogdonovic, and scoring by Hunter, Murray, or Johnson.

It made for a free-wheeling game, the Knicks always up by single digits, but never able to extend the lead much beyond that.

Every time the Knicks went up by 6 or 8 or even 10 points early in the 4th quarter, a few minutes later Atlanta was a point behind.

2. A Flurry Between Two Prize Fighters

NY finally took command in the final 4 minutes after a flurry of scoring between the two teams that was like watching a heavyweight fight.

  • It was 110-108 NY when RJ Barrett made a clutch drive to the bucket for a 112-108 lead.
  • Dejonte Murray answered with a bucket to cut the NY lead to 112-110.
  • Julius Randle answered with a drive and floater inside; 114-110 NY.
  • Trae Young answered with a floater to make it 114-112.
  • Jalen Brunson answered with a driving floater to make it 116-112 NY.
  • De’Andre Hunter drove for a dunk to cut it back to 116-114.
  • RJ Barrett hit a HUGE corner pullup jumper to put NY up 118-114.
  • After an Atlanta timeout, the Knicks defended well and Murray missed a jumper. NY got the ball to Barrett, who was blocked inside by Murray, but got his own rebound, made a beautiful pass to Randle outside who hit a 3 and NY was up 121-114 with 1:21 left.


3. The Final Minute

The Knicks seemed to have the game won but made a bunch of mistakes in the final minute — including 3 straight turnovers:

  1. With NY up 121-114 and 1:11 left, Julius Randle — who had just hit a couple of big buckets — got ahead of himself and drove left but lost the ball out of bounds — an unforced error.
  2. De’Andre Hunter hit a 3 with 43 seconds left to make it a 122-118 game, and then Quentin Grimes coughed up the ball on a pass to him in the left corner with 29 seconds left — Trae Young picking it up and then Grimes compounding the screw up by fouling Young, sending him to the line. Young hit 2 free throws and it was a 122-120 game.
  3. Jalen Brunson then brought it up, and threw a bad pass to Barrett on the right sidelines out of bounds. Incredibly Atlanta ball with NY up 122-120 and 24 seconds left.

Thankfully Atlanta also made 3 mistakes right back:

  1. Trae Young made a pass inside to Clint Capela for a game-tying dunk but he couldn’t handle it — and Mitchell Robinson picked it off. Atlanta fouled Julius Randle, who made 2 free throws for a 124-120 game.
  2. Young then blew to the basket but missed a driving layup — Randle rebounded and that was game.
  3. Randle made the 1st of 2 free throws for a 125-120 NY lead with 7 seconds left, then missed the 2nd but Atlanta didn’t box out and Randle grabbed his own rebound — and was fouled. He made 1 of 2 more free throws with 4 seconds left to make it the 126-120 final score.

 4. Brunson Led Knicks

Jalen Brunson was a scoring machine — hitting 3 after 3 in the 1st half to give NY command of the game. Brunson hit a career high 8 (eight) 3-pointers. In the 4th quarter, Brunson took command with his patented drives to the basket for floaters — or 3’s.

Trae Young could not keep up with Brunson — Young’s poor defense showed. And Young had a horrible night offensively — 4-16 (2-5 from 3) for 18 points and a -5.

Brunson had 31 points, 5 assists, and a +13.

6. Barrett Starred

RJ Barrett at times looked like the best player on the court. He dominated in the 1st half, and came up with huge buckets late. He played with the 1st team and the 2nd team — 26 pts on 9-15 shooting (3-5 from 3, 5-6 in free throws), 6 assists, and a +6.

NBA analyst Ross Kreines summed up Barrett’s play: “RJ Barrett with a solid first half on both ends and has been doing a good job finding the open man along with also making the extra pass on a number of possessions which has led to good looks. When you make the game easier for others, the game becomes easier for you.”

After leading Team Canada to a Bronze medal this summer — in which he was The Star on that team — Barrett’s confidence, shooting, and passing seem to have gone to another level so far this season.

7. Randle the Quiet Man Star

Julius Randle was having a soft scoring game — he only had 2 buckets in the 1st half — but finished with 17 points and the near triple double.

He played a strong overall game with rebounding and passing, and came up with big free throws late.

8. Mitch Beasted Inside

Mitchell Robinson beasted inside all night on the defensive boards against Clint Capela. Both big men had 13 rebounds — but Capella seemed to play as if he was looking over his shoulder — possibly why he muffed the pass from Young at the end of the game.

9. Knicks 2nd Team Strong

We finally saw a good game from Donte DiVincenzo who scored 15 points on 6-10 shooting (3-5 from 3) although he muffed some inside drives. The Knicks 2nd team — with Isiah Hartenstein, Immanuel Quickley, DiVincenzo, Josh Hart, and Barrett looks Dynamite.

They especially out-classed Atlanta at the end of the 3rd quarter into the early 4th quarter to gain NY a 10-point lead.

The Boxscore


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