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Jalen Brunson after win over Hawks: “We wanted to make sure we ran to the finish line”

Thibs warned y’all: “Don’t take a break before the break.”

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

One quarter of pure domination was all New York needed to finish the Hawks on the road at State Farm Arena on Wednesday.

The Knicks (33-27) conquered Atlanta by beating their professional basketball team 122-101. The game was so skewed toward New York early that even if your Knickerbockers had scored just 10 points in the final stanza they would have still forced OT.

New York dumped 37 points through the first 12 minutes, never scored fewer than 25 in any period, and cooked themselves a commanding 24-point lead through the first half.

One of the two teams competing on Wednesday will surely welcome the All-Star break, and it doesn’t happen to play hoops in NYC.

“Don’t take a break before the break,” Tom Thibodeau wisely said after the game.

This was the final matchup of the four-game season series between New York and Atlanta. Everything got wrapped up yesterday with the fight ending in a 2-2 tie with both teams alternating victories and defeats since the first time they met back on Nov. 2.

Even though the Knicks scored 122 points on Wednesday compared to 124 on Jan. 20 when they lastly played the Hawks, defense changed everything as they went from surrendering 139 points then to just 101 yesterday.

New York outrebounded Atlanta 55-40 even without soon-returning Mitchell Robinson available. They lost most other statistical categories but crashed the glass with gusto while also shooting much better percentages from all three levels and the charity stripe.

The Knicks hit 47% of their field-goal attempts and 82% of their freebies to the Hawks’ 41 and 76 percentages in those respective categories. Atlanta went 5-of-26 from beyond the arc to New York’s monster 14-of-43 tally.

“There are still 22 games left,” said RJ Barrett. “We’ve got to stay the course.”

Barrett kinda fixed his shooting woes of late, scoring 17 points on 16 shots from the floor, but still went 0-for-6 from three-point range. Not that different from Trae Young’s 19 points on 14 shots (1-of-6 from distance). Dejounte Murray, though, had a six-point stinker hitting just 3-of-12 from the field and none of his four long-range shots.

Julius Randle and Jalen Brunson scored 25 and 28 points respectively with the former pulling down 11 boards and the latter grabbing nine rebounds. Randle contributed a couple of dimes while Brunson dished out five.

“He’s good and he knows he’s good. I don’t think anyone is surprised by what he’s doing,” Thibodeau said of All-Star snub Brunson. The point guard is still waiting for a final decision by the NBA on the final ASG squads considering some players have missed games of late with different injuries and that might open the door for him to get a call from Adam Silver.

“If I was ever invited, that’s an honor I couldn’t pass up,” Brunson told Stefan Bondy of the Daily News discussing DeMar DeRozan’s and Jaylen Brown’s injuries. “I control what I can control. That’s all that matters to me.”

One thing Brunson controlled on Wednesday was the whole damn Hawks mob, that’s for sure.

“Whenever I step on the court, I try to be the best player I can be,” Brunson said. “There are always ways I can improve, no matter what’s going on, whether I’m playing good or bad.”

Brunson was mad at his five turnovers on the day, even though he finished the game with a team-high plus/minus of +22. Nobody in the Knicks team finished below +1 while only four reserves on the Hawks bench did so with no starter from Atlanta posting a higher figure than Young’s minus-13. Sheesh...

Thibs’ tiny rotation worked wonders with the trio of Obi Toppin (11), Josh Hart (13), and Immanuel Quickley (14) all scoring in double digits and Isiah Hartenstein dumping six points to go with 11 rebounds and three blocks.

This win put the Knicks in sole possession of the no. 6 seed in the East with a half-game advantage over Miami (32-27) and already a 3.5-game distance over Atlanta (29-30). Next in line: Brooklyn sitting in fifth with a 34-24 record through the break but an even and much more realistic 5-5 in their last 10 games.

“We’re in a good place, but I think we can get better,” Brunson said after the game.

Better things can (and will) get for the Knicks, indeed.

For one, Mitch is returning a few days after the All-Star break is over. For two, the Knicks have a slightly easier schedule (in terms of opponent winning record) than the no. 5 Nets as things stand today. For three, we are the New York Knicks.

No New York Knicks basketball until Feb. 24, when the guys will return to the court for the first time in more than a week to face Washington in DC before returning to MSG the next day.

Enjoy the weekend and root for Jericho Sims and our favorite expressionist Julius Randle. See yall when hoops come back.