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Hawks 105, Knicks 94: “facepalm.gif”

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Julius, RJ, where art thou?

New York Knicks v Atlanta Hawks - Game Three
Cover your eyes and pretend this game didn’t occur.
Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

Tom Thibodeau finally relented and started Derrick Rose over Elfrid Payton in Game 3 against the Hawks in Atlanta, but it turns out wins are still difficult to come by when your top two scorers combine for just 21 points on less than 17% shooting.

Atlanta sizzled from beyond the arc on Friday in front of their home crowd at State Farm Arena, nailing 16 of 27 threes (59.3%) en route to an 104-94 victory that was worse than the final score might have you believe. Julius Randle and RJ Barrett failed to show up again — 14 and 7 points, respectively — which rendered a remarkable 30-point effort from Rose inconsequential.

The Knicks now are down 2-1 in this best-of-seven series, but they’re not out. Not by a long shot. Things change quickly in the playoffs. All the Knicks need to do is figure out how to win on Sunday so they can head back to New York with the series tied. Easy Peasy.

Thibs waited until the last possible second to reveal his starting lineup, and when he finally did, it included both Rose and Taj Gibson. Nerlens Noel, who all season has done an outstanding job as Mitchell Robinson’s stand-in, did play 21 minutes in the game, but he came off the bench because he’s still dealing with a sore ankle after hurting it in Game 1.

It was weird to see Rose and Gibson both in the starting five after Thibs had been so stubborn with his starters, but got even stranger when the game began. There were three clock stoppages within the first 45 seconds of the game due to issues with the shot clock, and once things finally got underway, it quickly became clear the Knicks would once again ask the former Bulls bros to carry the load.

Rose and Gibson scored 13 of the Knicks first 15 points, but Randle was once again off (0-5 to start the night). The Hawks, meanwhile, poured in four of nine threes while getting 9 points and 5 assists from Trae Young. They seemed set to enter the second with a lead, until a bizarre folly enabled the Knicks to score 6 points in 1.1 seconds, including Randle’s first make of the night, a three-pointer at the buzzer of the first.

Thibs went with Alec Burks and Immanuel Quickley as the backup backourt, but before long he was forced to bring back Rose because the Knicks couldn’t hit anything (they shot 5-20 as a team for the quarter and scored only 13 points). The Hawks, on the other hand, displayed more of their dizzying offensive prowess, draining five of six threes in the period and going on a 22-3 run late in the period. At the half, the Hawks were up 14.

Less than a minute into the third quarter, Barrett finally hit his first shot of the night, a three, and Reggie Bullock followed with a three of his own. But the deficit was still double digits, and no one on the Knicks besides Rose had any interest in truly being aggressive. Way too often, Knicks would rise up for a jumper but realize their defender was right there so try to make a pass while in the air. It didn’t result in tons of turnovers, but it also didn’t result in dazzling offense.

Late in the period, Randle received “OVER-RATED” chants from the crowd while at the free throw line. He smoothly sank both free throws in their overrated faces. Then, he had a pretty assist to Noel and sank a three to beat the shot clock. Dreams of another comeback started creeping back into our brains, but even though the Knicks played the Hawks even in the third, “even” wasn’t good enough. They came into the quarter down 14, and they left it down 14.

In the fourth, with Randle and Barrett on the bench, the Knicks continued to fight. Rose dropped another 9 points and 3 assists, including a perfect alley-oop to Obi Toppin from beyond half court.

But, much like the rest of the game, no one else was available to help. In the end, the Hawks secured the victory with relative ease, although the Knicks never gave up, with Thibs playing Rose all 12 minutes in the fourth and even bringing back Randle and Barrett for the last four minutes despite the game clearly being out of reach.

Oh well. Tough loss, but the Hawks shot the lights out and the Knicks couldn’t shoot. Plus, the home team is supposed to have an advantage anyway. All the Knicks need to do is win on Sunday in order to earn back home court. And all they’ll need in order to do that is a couple of resurgent efforts from Randle and Barrett.

Notes:

> New York took 30 free throws to Atlanta’s 8. The Knicks hit 27 of 30 (90%), while the Hawks hit 5 of 8 (62.5%). How often does the team that overwhelmingly wins the free throw battle lose the game overwhelmingly?

> Elf’s mom wasn’t happy with the lineup change, feelings she made known via Tweet. It’s no surprise that a player’s mom wouldn’t be happy her son was benched. And there’s no question that the Knicks seemed a little out of sorts with the new rotations. But Payton has been unable to get the Knicks going on offense, and something needed to change. Might further adjustments to the rotation be coming? In other words, will Thibs tinker?

> Frank Ntilikina received 3 seconds of playing time, for one single defensive possession. Shrug.

> However many synonyms exist for the word “remarkable,” D-Rose deserves to be described as each and every one. He played almost 39 minutes and finished with 30 points on 13-21 shooting (62%), plus 6 rebounds and 5 assists. Can he keep this up?

> The last time Rose scored 30 or more in a game was...actually not that long ago. He had 31 as a member of the Detroit Pistons in a game that took place in February 2020.

> Alec Burks wasn’t great (8 points on 2-8 shooting, 2 boards, 2 assists and 2 turnovers in almost 23 minutes), but this play was delightful.

Okay, that’s probably enough words about this loss. The whole game can really be described in a few short sentences: Without Rose, the Knicks would have wilted and lost by 100. Other than him, the Knicks were just a big pile of dirt.

In the comments, Fomalhaut described how we all felt for most of the evening: “facepalm.gif”

Game 3 is Sunday in Atlanta. Tip-off is 1 pm. It would be nice if Randle and RJ decided to show up.