“And Alexander wept,” goes the famous quote that actually never really happened, “seeing as he had no more worlds to conquer.” The New York Knicks aren’t quite there yet — they’ve yet to clinch a playoff spot, much less establish an empire — but last night’s 137-127 overtime win over the Atlanta Hawks was their eighth straight, moving them six games over .500 and for the moment up to fourth in the Eastern conference. Alexander the Great died at 32; unless he could protect the paint and set good screens, he would’ve been too old for this team anyway.
The Hawks have been hot themselves, entering the night with four straight road wins, and despite missing Danilo Gallinari, Cam Reddish, Tony Snell and Kris Dunn they didn’t appear to miss a beat early on. Atlanta, behind Clint Capela, was monopolizing the paint while the Knicks did their damage from outside. Nerlens Noel worked to balance the scales: his consecutive offensive rebounds resulted in a five-point possession.
Nerls keeps it alive and Elfrid finishes a TOUGH and-1 pic.twitter.com/src3ygf8Z5— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) April 22, 2021
The Knicks hit six of their first seven from deep and 60% from the field in the first half, but still trailed most of the way. Atlanta was led by the dishing and swishing of you know who.
Trae Young eviscerated the Knicks using floaters, runners, drives and passes at or near the rim. Julius Randle couldn’t miss from deep and Derrick Rose couldn’t miss from anywhere, nailing his first six shots. When he wasn’t helping himself, he was helping others.
Randle went for 20 by intermission. Dude loves matching up with the Hawks.
And the Knicks were hustling.
Still, behind 18 and 10 Trae dimes the visitors were up two, and in the second half the Knicks got down two alternatively: Taj Gibson left the game with a laceration above his eye and later in the third Noel left the game after catching a Capela elbow to the mouth. A John Collins three-point play put the Hawks up six. RJ Barrett had missed ten of his 11 shots. Could things change? My sweet loves. Things can always change.
Atlanta led by 11 late in the third, but with Barrett activated it looked like things could turn. Things really turned after Trae missed a runner and landed badly on Norvel Pelle’s foot. Young’s night was done.
In the fourth the Knicks started drawing fouls and getting to the line. Rose and Immanuel Quickley both went for 20 on the night; after back-to-back Quickley 3s pulled the Knicks within two, Rose tied things at 109. The Knicks went on a 15-0 run to go up by seven. Behind Bogdan Bogdanović and Collins, the Hawks tied the game at 118. A Randle fallaway jumper plus a bulldozing finish with eight seconds left put the Knicks up three. It wouldn’t last.
MSG aired a clip of Tom Thibodeau drawing up the last shot.
It didn’t work. Overtime.
IQ opened the added time with a floater. Noel stuffed Solomon Hill’s up-and-under attempt. Randle hit another 3 while Kevin Huerter missed two. Randle kept looking for Bullock in the corner till Reggie hit, which he did to push the lead to eight. Bogdanović’s 20th point cut it to five, but Barrett’s tough baseline make plus a Quickley 3 polished off a most valuable win.
- The Knicks were 19 of 35 from deep, tying their season-high and just one shy of the franchise record.
- The bench scored 48 on 70% shooting.
- 40, 11, six assists and six threes for Randle. Running out of things to say about him. Just incredible consistency.
- When Rose and IQ are scoring and Burks is back, this time can beat anybody. Maybe not four out of seven times. But three out of five? Entirely possible.
- MSG had a great RJ stat: in games he’s scored five or less in the first half, he’s averaging 14.8 on 46% shooting in those second halfs. The man averages 20 points in games he’s on pace for 10. Love it.
- Obi Toppin was a real presence as a rim defender on about a half-dozen defensive possessions. Also hustled to save a few offensive possessions. He did good.
- 35 minutes, 12 rebounds, three assists, three blocks and a busted lip against one of the Association’s better bigs for Noel. What a player he’s been this year. See what I mean?
“My mindset is to protect the rim at any means necessary.”— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) April 21, 2021
Nerlens Noel, the only NBA player averaging 2 blocks & 1 steal per game, talks blocks (Dorian Finney-Smith, Brandon Ingram, James Harden) NYK, fans at MSG & more on The Putback: https://t.co/NdvnpTyqn4 pic.twitter.com/DxCZKcUFrE
- The Knicks are now 21-6 when Bullock scores double-figures. He also did a nice job setting up others for the second game in a row. Doug McDermott traumatized me as a shooter whose success didn’t seem to translate to New York. Bullock has my trust.
- I think I got my first look at Atlanta’s lottery big man, Onyeka Okowngwu. Wasn’t much of a look; he only played eight minutes. Still not sure why they drafted him shortly after acquiring Capela, but okay.
- I called it in the last recap of the abbreviated 2020 season, another overtime win for New York over Atlanta.
- Has any Knicks team had a nerdier set of names at the same position as Nerlens and Norvel?
Quoth Purist__: “Biggest game of the year.” This one was the biggest in many years. And they just keep getting bigger. Next game is Saturday when the Knicks host the Raptors. We’ll see then if nine straight Ws is in the cards.