Garden of Eden: Randle, MSG roar back to life as Knicks tie series

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A quiet place no more.

The Garden became Eden once again on a magical Wednesday night as the New York Knicks climbed from a 13-point halftime hole for their first playoff win in eight years.

The Knicks tied the series after a riveting second-half comeback to pull out a 101-92 win before their adoring fans.



From celebrities to LeBron James, millions were glued on this game as the Madison Square Garden rocked until the buzzer.

 

This time, the Knicks made sure there will be no Trae Young game-winner to quiet the crowd.

Derrick Rose, playing with 32-year old legs, turned back the clock in a throwback showdown against the Hawks’ 22-year old star that kept the Knicks in the game.

Then everything clicked once Julius Randle found his mojo back in the second half.

Randle recovered from a 0-6 start and poured in 13 of his 15 points in the final two quarters to rally the Knicks.

Reggie Bullock also regained his shooting form and locked up Young in the fourth quarter.

Young had a second consecutive 30-point game in The Garden, but he was limited to 1-of-3 shooting in the final quarter.

After a soaring first half where they led by as many as 15 points, the Hawks were grounded in the second half.



New York roared to life in the third quarter with a 17-5 run that tied the game at 72 all. The Knicks grabbed their first lead since the first quarter on a Randle fallaway jumper with 1:45 left. They never let go of that lead.

With Randle struggling in the first half, Obi Toppin electrified the crowd with quality minutes off the bench.

Toppin reprised his role at the start of the fourth quarter. The Garden turned into bedlam when Toppin rose for an alley-oop dunk that extended the Knicks’ lead to six, 81-75, with 10:55 to play. His mother, Roni Toppin, turned emotional as the crowd chanted his son’s name.

The Knicks erected their largest lead, 88-78, at the 8:34 mark. But the Hawks charged back with a 9-0 run to close the gap.

Bullock gave New York a four-point breather, 91-87. Atlanta refused to give up and tied the game at 91 all. The Knicks’ defense shut the Hawks down in the final 5:06, limiting them to just one free throw.

Rose summoned his MVP form 10 years ago as he pumped in 26 points on daredevil drives, short jumpers, and three-point bombs in a season-high 39 minutes. He added four rebounds and four assists.

Tom Thibodeau went to Rose to start the second half, signifying that he’s had enough of Elfrid Payton’s lackadaisical play. Payton only saw five minutes in the first half and never returned. He was a plus/minus -7. Taj Gibson also stepped up as Nerlens Noel couldn’t keep up with Clint Capela. Noel (2 points, five rebounds in 16 minutes) had the worst net rating among all Knicks players with plus/minus -14.

Gibson, Thibodeau’s most trusted veteran big man, played 30 minutes and delivered more than his stat line — six points, seven rebounds, one assist, three steals, and one block — screamed.

But the story of the game was Randle, who couldn’t shake off the playoffs jitter and the Hawks’ double-teaming schemes in the first six quarters of the series.

A rhythm 3 to start the third quarter was all he needed to loosen up. Randle went 5-for-10 in the second half.

“Obviously, we were disappointed with the way we played in the first half, but I knew in the second half there’d be a great fight, and there was,” Thibodeau said.

“And I think Julius hitting that shot, Julius is not going to go away. He’s going to keep coming. He’s got a great will, great determination, and he’s a fighter.

Randle matched his 15-point output in Game 1, but he returned to his old self — the first-time All-Star and the league’s Most Improved Player. His inspiring turnaround in the second half rubbed off on the team.

Bullock, who didn’t hit a single 3 in Game 1, went 4-of-7 this time and put up 15 points.

The Knicks bench came up big again with 55 points. Alec Burks added 11 points and eight rebounds, while Toppin had eight and three boards.

New York limited Atlanta to just 35 points on a 28 percent clip in the second half. In contrast, the Knicks shot 48 percent (22-of-46) in the last two quarters.

The series moves to Atlanta on Friday with a throng of Knicks fans expected to fly.

The “F*ck You Trae” chants in Game 1 was replaced by “Trae is balding” that didn’t deter the Hawks star in the opening half. Young almost scored at will with 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting, including four treys.

But once Randle and the Knicks regained the menacing form that catapulted them to the fourth seed, Young could no longer shush the crowd. Instead, the Knicks silenced him. And The Garden roared back to life.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

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