The game started with a “F*ck Trae Young” chant. It ended with a Young game-winner.
Young’s floater with less than a second left silenced a stunned 15,000 Madison Square Garden crowd as the Hawks stole Game 1 from the New York Knicks, 107-105, on Sunday night.
Julius Randle missed a tough fadeaway jumper at the buzzer that dimmed the spotlight on Knicks’ return to the NBA playoffs for the first time in eight years.
Game 2 of the series, shaping up to be one for the ages, is set on Wednesday at The Garden.
If Randle’s playoffs debut was a dud — 15 points on 6-of-23 shooting — Young was the exact opposite.
The Hawks’ rising star was spectacular. He toyed around the Knicks defense, delivering a virtuoso performance in his first playoff game. Young scored six clutch points in the final two minutes to bring Atlanta home. He led the Hawks with game-highs of 32 points and 10 assists. He added seven rebounds and committed only two turnovers in 35 minutes.
“I’m looking at it as I’m doing something right if I’m affecting them with my play that much that they hate me that much,” Young said, reacting on the Knicks fans’ heckling. “I just let my game do the talking.”
RJ Barrett and Alec Burks carried the Knicks on the night Randle struggled. For a while, it looked like the Knicks could survive. But Young had enough of the Knicks fans’ heckling and delivered a heck of an ending.
The Knicks bench scored 64 points, with their starters only good for 41. Reggie Bullock joined Randle with a poor outing, misfiring all of his five three-point attempts. He wound up with six points on 3-of-9 overall shooting.
With the ineffective starting point guard Elfrid Payton reduced to just eight minutes and zero points, Rose gave the Knicks a huge lift off the bench. The 32-year old former MVP turned Sixth Man of the Year finalist had 17 points, five rebounds, and five assists in 38 minutes. But he also committed a game-worst five turnovers.
A 2-for-12 jittery start had the Knicks falling behind in the opening quarter. Behind Young’s backcourt wizardry, the Hawks led the Knicks, 24-16.
New York’s bench — starring rookies Immanuel Quickley and Obi Toppin — energized the Knicks’ sluggish offense.
Then Barrett pumped in nine points in the third quarter, where the Knicks started to wrest control of the game. His highlight dunk over Bogdan Bogdanovic midway the quarter capped a 7-2 Knicks’ mini-run that tied the game at 63 apiece.
Barrett, the youngest Knicks at 20 to play in the playoffs, wound up with a double-double (14 points and 11 rebounds).
Burks picked up from where Barrett left off. The veteran guard scored a playoff career-high 27 points, 18 in the fourth quarter. But it wasn’t enough.
The Knicks squandered a 92-87 lead in the final 4:46 as the Hawks went on a 10-1 run in the next minute to grab a 97-93 lead.
But the Knicks responded with five straight points courtesy of Barrett and a Randle three-pointer that swung the lead back to New York, 98-97, with 2:04 remaining.
It was back-and-forth from there. A Rose floater forced a 105-deadlock with 10.2 seconds left, but it was enough time for Young’s endgame heroics.
It was an anti-climactic ending for the Knicks crowd that began the night pouring out their bottled-up emotions and energy since the pandemic and the last seven fruitless seasons.
Their “F*ck Trae Young” chants proved to be their undoing as it fueled the Hawks gunner to silence them.
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