The New York Knicks have arguably their most important game of the season on Wednesday evening against the Atlanta Hawks. Having lost their last two games in Atlanta, the Knicks will host their opponent at MSG in an attempt to extend the series and survive one more day.
A variety of factors have played into the Knicks’ demise, ranging from All-Star Julius Randle failing to play to his potential and a degenerative defense that collapsed in the most recent game over the weekend. The Knicks allowed 113 points and scored just 96 of their own, as Julius Randle lead in the department with 23 points but shot 7-of-19 from the field.
Hawks’ big man Clint Capela made it clear that his team was coming back to New York to end the series in front of the faithful Knick fans. It’s up to Julius Randle and Co. to find a way to extend it.
â€œNow weâ€™re coming to your home to win this game again and send you on vacation.â€
How the Knicks can extend the series with a win:
If the Knicks want to walk away victorious in game five, they desperately need their stars to step up and rookies to make an impact off the bench. Specifically, Obi Toppin could be a player to look out for, playing 19 minutes in the previous loss, shooting 5-of-8, and recording 13 points. He has increasingly played a more pivotal role, and he could earn more playing time because of it.
â€œObiâ€™s played well,â€ Thibodeau said. â€œAt this point, playing well means youâ€™re going to play more. Iâ€™m very pleased with his season overall. But each day heâ€™s gotten better. Heâ€™s played very well in the playoffs.â€
Ultimately, the Knicks have had no choice but to bench Randle at times during the series, as he played 36 minutes in game four. In game three, he recorded just 14 points but did host 11 rebounds. While his physicality remains unmatched, he seems to be hesitating and not taking his normal shots, which has lead to inefficiency and a lack of production.
The Knicks donâ€™t have the star power to replicate his statistical output, and head coach Tom Thibodeau has tried his best to inject more offense into the team, electing to start Derrick Rose the past two games. However, the team has been outscored by 28 points over the last two losses, so thereâ€™s no question they need a bit more defense on the floor.
This is going to be a battle for New York as Atlanta tries to close this out away, and considering they are now two games back in the series, every minute counts.