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Knicks 143, Hawks 120: “This is a new feeling”

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Keanu voice: “Whoa.”

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NBA: Atlanta Hawks at New York Knicks Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

You’ve probably heard of Larry Hughes, the one-time Knick. And you’re undoubtedly familiar with some of the 12 Knicks with the surname “Williams” (alphabetically ranging from Buck to Troy). Ever hear of Hugh Williams?

The story goes that in 1664 a shipwreck in the Menia Strait off the coast of Wales killed 81 of 82 passengers. The only survivor was a man named Hugh Williams. 121 years later another unlucky ship went down in the Menia. The only survivor was a man named Hugh Williams. 35 years after that, it happened again: a ship went down; all perished except a Hugh Williams. Finally, in 1940, a German mine blew up a British trawler. All aboard were killed except for an uncle and nephew — both named Hugh Williams.

Whether these stories are truth or legend, they’re historical. Historical was the Knicks shellacking the Atlanta Hawks 143-120 Tuesday night. If your name is Hugh Williams, odds are you’re doing better than most. If you played for the Knicks last night, odds are you played well. This wasn’t just a blowout victory. This was basketball as bliss. Heavenly hoops. 4700 square feet of Shangri-La.

Sometimes when something with the Knicks is trending tectonic, I spend a quarter tracking just that. Since the early days of spacing under Mike Miller resemble a penthouse compared to David Fizdale’s outhouse offense, I decided to track the actions that led to New York’s shots in the first quarter. As luck would have it, it turned out to be their highest-scoring quarter all season (bold-type indicates scoring plays):

Julius Randle post; Randle transition wild double-clutch 180; Frank Ntilikina 3 off a screen; Marcus Morris drive and-one; Randle post-up —> Morris 3; RJ Barrett drive —> Randle 3; Ntilikina turnover; Taj Gibson handoff to RJ (draws foul); Ntilikina/Randle pick-and-roll —> Randle bucket; Morris pull-up; Barrett drive and put back; Randle post-up; Barrett transition lay-up; Randle post-up, draws shooting foul (made both FTs); Payton lay-up off pick-and-roll with Robinson; Barrett draws loose-ball foul (missed both FTs); Elfrid Payton lay-up; Payton drive off Mitchell Robinson pick-and-roll, missed tosser; Morris post-up pull-up; Morris post-up, draws shooting foul (made both FTs); Barrett drives, sets up Payton for missed floater; Dennis Smith Jr. draws loose-ball foul (made one FT); Bobby Portis pull-up three; DSJ three-pointer off Robinson pick; Morris transition three; Damyean Dotson three-pointer after six passes; Robinson draws shooting foul off DSJ dribble penetration (made both FTs); Dotson transition missed three; Dotson pull-up.

The Koreans or the Romans invented radiant heating. Last night the Knicks perfected it, dropping a 21-0 run on the Hawks to go up 22 in the second quarter (the run was stopped by, of all people, Cam Reddish, the lowest-shooting [32%] of Atlanta’s leading dozen minutes men). The word “dominate” comes from the Latin dominus, meaning “lord” or “master.” The Knicks did the etymology proud: this wasn’t one of those nights where one team makes like 17 of 23 threes, a ludicrous singularity along the lines of Hugh Williams. The Knicks hit 13 of 28 from deep, but they took more free throws than threes; midway through the second quarter they’d taken more foul shots than they did in either the Sacramento or Denver games. The bench scored 31 in the first half, New York’s highest-scoring half this season. By the break they were up 24.

How many facets can one jewel contain? The lead reached as high as 31 in the third quarter. The Knicks scored more points after three quarters (109) than they average per game (102.7); it was the most they’d scored after three quarters in 11 years. In the third New York scored 32 points, a per-game pace of 128...and that was a drop-off from what they’d put up in the first and second quarters. Each.

The Knicks led by more than 20 the entire second half. Thanks to a barrage of Robinson alley-oops the last couple minutes — seriously, like 3 or 4 — the Knicks scored more points in regulation than they had since a win over the Pistons in 1980. That’s so long ago the box score looks like something outta the Stone Age (featuring two of the 12 Williams as well as a future Knick head coach).

If you saw this game, you’ll wanna watch a replay. If you missed it, find a way to find it. If you’ve ever thought you’ll never see the Knicks win a title in your lifetime — so in other words, if you think and therefore you am — this is what the Knicks would look like if they were ever that good. Check out Alex Wolfe’s P&T postgame from last night: there are 16 video highlights. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg that sunk the East’s new cellar dwellers. Last night the Knicks were the serene brutality of the ocean and the Hawks had no Hugh Williams.

Notes:

  • A career-high 27 for Barrett, who did it on just 13 shots and in just 29 minutes. He’s not even remotely polished and yet already so assured, so accomplished. So skill. Such exciting.
  • A good sign for RJ Barrett, NBA teen: the Knicks face a team that doesn’t have a reputable shot-blocker — and these Hawks def qualify, apologies to Damian Jones — and he is relentless taking it to the rim.
  • Randle and Morris: 39 points on 26 shots; nearly twice as many foul shots as three-point attempts. The Knicks’ two best scorers having good nights the name nights may help explain how a team wins three of four after starting out 4-20.
  • Ntilikina, Payton and DSJ combined for 16 points, 17 assists and just five turnovers.
  • When Randy Johnson was dominating MLB, the Mets had a lilliputian utility man named Joe McEwing who improbably owned the Big Unit. Trae Young is one of the NBA’s brightest young stars, and the 42 he put up tonight was a 42 that sparked ooohs and ahhhs from the home crowd. But Young dropped a lot of those 42 against Knicks not named Frank Ntilikina. As fun a contrast in styles and sometimes as surprising a match-up as Johnson/McEwing.
  • Payton’s now gone three straight games without a turnover. He is to point guards what matte finish is to paints: not flashy, but smooth. The other nine players on the floor can be dancing tarantellas and Payton’s internal motor is fixed to waltz. All of which is to say whatever you think of his upside or future in New York, I’m glad I’ve gotten to see him play up-close.
  • DSJ was decisive and incisive, flying after loose balls and launching into transition like shots fired. 21 is young, man. Young and undefined.
  • A season-high 17 for Kevin Knox. 29 minutes, 22 points and 13 rebounds for Mitchell Robinson. For one night, at least, the kids were all right.
  • Re: Trae Young: I wonder what the record is for most points scored by a player whose team lost by 23+. Maybe young Allen Iverson?
  • In the second half Trae threw a Shammgod at Knox to free himself for a three-pointer. He hit it. The thing is, Knox is such a non-exemplar defender the move didn’t actually faze him; he was already lost.
  • If you like the Knicks running and dunking, be sure to catch a replay of this game.
  • Barring a trade to a team that’s visiting the Knicks later this season, this was Vince Carter’s last game at MSG. 15 points for the legend. A standing ovation from the crowd and the Knicks when he checked out for the last time. When VC broke into the league I was as old as RJ is now. Now when Vince leaves I’m almost as old as Vince.
  • There was a short but terrifying point as the Knicks were slipping from their ‘90s successes that the Raptors had young Carter and young Tracy McGrady and looked primed to torture New York for a decade. When the early 21st century Knicks faced Toronto, McGrady used to disassemble Allan Houston; lots of times Houston couldn’t even get a shot off.
  • In an early sequence RJ got out in transition and pushed up the floor against Carter, and it was a visual metaphor for what 19 looks like when it’s running full-speed at 42. When I was 19 I’d drink gin between pick-up games. The other day I got winded laughing at something.
  • Carter retiring means something to me. One day when the last NBA player older than you calls it quits, you’ll know what I mean, if you don’t already.
  • I dunno if this is a fair assessment or me just being dead wrong. But one thing that’s impressed me throughout Carter’s career is that he appears to have immensely powerful wrists. Haven’t seen many cats besides him who can let fly from 30+ feet while looking effortless.
  • Mike Miller called timeout to dig into the Knicks after a bad defensive possession when they were up 28 and called and won a coach’s challenge up 31 after Payton was called for stripping De’Andre Hunter on the break. Thumbs up.
  • Young found Kevin Huerter ahead of the field with the whole Knick team napping. Two straight games that’s happened.
  • Speaking of two straight: Frank double-crossed over Young and utterly lost him. But whereas he ended a similar move against the Nuggets canning a corner three, this time he airballed a floater.
  • If Mitch is ever gonna acclimate to busting out that jump shot in games, this was a night to get them reps.
  • A roar from the crowd for Robinson after he raced to try and save a loose ball ahead of the field and ended up wiping out in front of the Knick bench.
  • This one was a casual fan’s special: the Knicks won in a rout and the only two Hawks the laymen have heard of — Young and Carter — showed up.
  • Dominique Wilkins was at the Garden calling the game for the Hawks. Nique def played in the right era. The Human Highlight Film is revered today, rightfully. But you know what Wilkins was? A brilliant scorer who didn’t excel at any other part of the game whose team never got past the second round. Back in the day, you could love a guy like that with no shame. Today he’d spend his entire second contract ripped as not-a-max guy and get traded to some Western Conference dark horse to play second- or third-banana.
  • Remember when Atlanta’s Jabari Parker co-headlined the greatest NBA draft maybe ever alongside Andrew Wiggins? There’s a lesson in there for most of us, if not all.
  • My daughter recently elbowed something accidentally and immediately linked it to Allonzo Trier. Maybe it’s just our household, but I don’t think any Knick has been this associated with elbows since Bill Cartwright.
  • A wonderful question to confront — if these Knicks are facing extensive garbage time, only as a result of them winning, who do you wanna see out there getting minutes?
  • Easily the strangest development of this young season: the increasing presence of Rochester’s own John Wallace, OAKAAKUYOAK, on various MSG network programming.
  • Wally Szczerbiak: “[Trae’s] game really reminds me of Steph Curry.” No shit, Sherlock.
  • Szczerbs, describing the Knick point guards a literal minute after DSJ checked in for his first action after three DNPs and four disappointing games before that: “They’re starting to become a little bit of a three-headed monster.”
  • Dear Szczerbs,

Taj Gibson tipping in an offensive rebound to push the lead from 15 to 17 is NOT “a big tip-in...the Knicks needed.”

  • In praise of Szczerbiak, at one point he compared Young to “a water bug.” That’s actually pretty good.
  • OAKAAKUYOAK play-by-play man Gus Johnson was in attendance. I didn’t crush on Gus as much as others did, but he had his moments.

Quoth fomalhaut: “This is a new feeling.” Ride this one out, if you can. Next game isn’t till Friday at Miami. The Heat are no joke. The Knicks kinda aren’t, though, either.