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Knicks 117, Hawks 108: the sound of silence

Shhh.

New York Knicks v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Our furnace died last week, right before the coldest two days of the year. We were able to install a new one Wednesday, but whenever it runs the packing oil smell is intense, and my partner has had more than enough run-ins with cancer — herself and her family — that we’re not having that. We open all the windows and run it while we’re out; the installer said it usually takes 10 minutes and no more than 24 hours. We’re nearing 100 and it still smells. Meanwhile, 10-14 inches of blowing snow are expected overnight and all day tomorrow.

I’ve been struck of late by how quietly entire landscapes or sensescapes can change. A room that’s an icebox can have a space heater run for a couple minutes and become entirely comfortable. Take one last look out the window before bed and it’s a silent night. The next morning the world is white, a blanket of snow laid over all, and there was never a hint during the night of the change. We think of change as active and we think of active as noisy or involved. Sometimes change involves no more than sitting back and receiving it as is.

This will hopefully be a quiet recap. It’s a late recap, in part because I first wrote one for The Strickland, but also because I hope to capture the spirit of last night’s 117-108 New York Knicks win over the Atlanta Hawks. A lot of things went right for New York, but I didn’t feel like any came out of left field. It’s not like Mitchell Robinson hit a bunch of jumpers or Evan Fournier was some post-up/shot-blocking menace. But the quietude with which New York proved too much for Atlanta was more impressive, in its own way. The landscape around the Knicks is changing, even if it’s sometimes too subtle to notice.

The game began with RJ Barrett continuing to rain down on teams like he has been for weeks. The Duke of York scored 10 in the first frame to help the Knicks to an early lead. By the second it was clear the absence of Hawk center Clint Capela would not go unaddressed by the Knick bigs; Mitch and Taj Gibson combined for 15 points and eight rebounds in the first half. It was nothing you haven’t seen before. But the slow, steady accumulation of good play from the bigs was like air power in World War II: with that in place, everything else could fall in place.

Julius Randle took the baton in the second, scoring 13 in the quarter and finishing the half with six assists. Late in the second he cut a swath of destruction through last May’s nemesis, hitting a baseline fadeaway, then a long straight-on 3, then a strong drive, then a transition dunk, then screening Fournier for a 3 that put New York up 60-47. He set Fournier up for another longball late in the half.

We’ve been waiting for the starters to click this season. Like snow falling over night, the world can change with no warning. New York’s starters have been playing much better lately and did again last night, outscoring Atlanta’s 99-63 and shooting 50% from the field and 40% from deep. Look at the teams’ starters over last year’s playoffs and the prior two meetings this season. The Hawks’ five have consistently bettered the Knicks’, often by a wide margin:

G1 76-41 ATL
G2 70-46 ATL
G3 74-66 ATL
G4 78-76 NY
G5 87-62 ATL
11/27 71-68 ATL
12/25 64-63 ATL

Fournier prepared the body for burial in the fourth with nine points in the quarter. The Hawks made a run, cutting a 17-point lead to three. As I sat on my couch figuratively sweating — the wind chill was -10 — a space heater near me gave me pause. I have been so grateful for space heaters recently. This thing that’s basically a portable fireplace warms you up. Space heaters are localized heat. Several Knicks were, too, down the stretch. In addition to Fournier, Randle had an efficient 24, six and nine assists to just one turnover. One of his dimes found Barrett when the Hawks were down three and enjoying the momentum.

That’s seven straight wins for the Knicks over the Hawks in regular-season meetings. It’s also 10 straight losses at home for Atlanta, now 17-25 and as close to Detroit as they are sixth-seeded Cleveland.

Notes

  • A strong 16 minutes from Quentin Grimes, who hit all three of his shots, including two 3s.
  • Kevin Huerter had six points, six rebounds and six assists, and now the red hair seems like no coincidence.
  • Mitch got cut on his arm in the first quarter and needed medical attention. Some Knick trainer put some something on the cut and Robinson looked like a little kid getting iodine. It was so cute. Pro’ly not for him.
  • Last night was the 32-year anniversary of the Trent Tucker Game.
  • Some love after the final buzzer for the recently departed Kevin Knox. So good seeing the young man smile. Hope things work out for him. Always a likable human.

The Knicks are 22-21 headed into a Monday afternoon Martin Luther King Jr. Day tilt with fellow Eastern wanna-be Charlotte. MLK was a socialist. Don’t let them let us forget.