After a hot start, the Knicks faltered in the second half to fall, 139-124, to the Hawks on Friday.
With Mitchell Robinson out with a thumb injury, coach Tom Thibodeau chose Jericho Sims to start as the team’s center along with the usual starting lineup of Jalen Brunson, Julius Randle, Quentin Grimes and RJ Barrett.
Here are the takeaways….
– The Hawks came out firing with four different players scoring in the paint. However, the Knicks answered with every step of the way early on. Hawks hit 10 of their first 12 shots and the Knicks scored on eight of their first 10, including three of four from downtown. The hot shooting would slow down for both sides, but Randle scored four straight points to give the Knicks their first lead at 28-26 with four minutes remaining.
Thibodeau went with a different variation of his rotation in the final minutes of the first, pairing Isaiah Hartenstein, Immanuel Quickley and Miles McBride with Barrett and Randle. Obi Toppin would sub in for Randle with a minute to go, and this athletic group ended the first quarter on top, 38-35.
The Knicks shot 16-of-20 (80 percent) while the Hawks 15-of-32 (47 percent) in the first quarter. While the shooting efficiency was great for New York, the Hawks took advantage of offensive rebounds — a product of the hot shooting — to get second and third opportunities. Randle led all scorers with 11 points on 4-of-8 shooting and was the only Knick to miss a shot in that frame. Barrett and Brunson added eight points each.
– The second quarter began with the same unit that ended the first. Midway through the second, both teams began their offensive onslaughts — or defensive slumps — as each were scoring at will. Toppin, who has been struggling since returning from injury, made his presence known by hitting an alley-oop and a three-pointer while also providing the team with his signature energy. Both teams would go on separate spurts as the Knicks went into halftime up 71-68.
The Knicks’ hot shooting continued in the second as they shot 64 percent (14-22). Randle led the Knicks with 15 points while Barrett and Brunson each scored 14 entering the third quarter. The Knicks were 6-of-10 from three, they were 7-of-26 in their loss against the Wizards on Wednesday. Atlanta shot 62 percent with Dejounte Murray scoring 12 of his 16 points in the second to lead the Hawks.
– The starters began the third quarter on a low note. Grimes turned the ball over to allow the Hawks to get within one, and then fouled Trae Young on a three-point attempt. It was upgraded to a flagrant one for a landing area violation. Grimes immediately had to sit as that was his fourth foul by him. A 16-1 run — nine from Young — gave Atlanta a comfortable lead. It wouldn’t be until eight minutes remaining that the Knicks picked up their first field goal — a Randall layup. Randall would string together buckets and stops to lead the Knicks on an 11-2 run and get within four points.
With a 1:22 remaining, Randle made two free throws to give the Knicks a 96-95 lead. Randle put the Knicks on his back in the third quarter, scoring 17 of his 32 points up to this point. He scored 17 of New York’s 30 points in the quarter. Young scored 14 points in the quarter for Atlanta.
The Knicks shot 48 percent (10-21) to the Hawks’ 50 percent (12-24) as Atlanta went into the final frame up 103-101.
– The second unit started the fourth but couldn’t get the shots to go down, shooting just 1-for-6 before Thibodeau called a timeout three minutes in. Atlanta would go out to a 10-0 run to go up 116-104 with 7:45 left. The Hawks would continue to increase their lead as the Knicks simply could not stop them. They opened up a 131-112 lead with 3:48 left and Thibodeau called a timeout to put in the second unit. An 8-0 run by the Knicks cut the lead to 11, but a three from Bogdan Bodanovich put the game out of reach. Both teams would empty the bench with 1:19 to go. The Knicks dropped their third straight, 139-124.
Sims had a career-high 12 points along with eight rebounds in 28 minutes. Hartenstein posted two points and six rebounds in 16 minutes, as the Knicks look to fill the void left by Robinson. They were also outrebounded by Atlanta, 47-37.
Overall, the Knicks shot 59 percent, but just 45 percent in the fourth quarter.
Six Knicks scored in double figures. Randle led the team with 32 points as Barrett (23), Grimes (10), Brunson (19), Sims (12), and Quickley (11) all contributed. But the combination of Young (27) and Murray (29) was too much.
The Knicks head north to take on the Toronto Raptors on Sunday, at 6 pm