Knicks’ Taj Gibson details why New York has been so successful and what’s to come

The New York Knicks are preparing to take on the Atlanta Hawks in Game 3 on Friday evening, and if the first two games give us any indication of what this contest will be like, aggressive and intense might be the best two words to use.

Given the hostility that Knick fans implemented on Atlanta while at MSG, we can expect something similar as New York goes on the road for the next two games. Luckily, the Knicks did claim a win in Game 2, which ended up being significant as they guaranteed themselves a game 5 at The Garden.

However, it is clear that some players are simply more prepared to take on the postseason jitters and energy with more confidence. All-Star Julius Randle struggled considerably in both games, finally picking it up in the second half of Game 2 to help his team make a comeback from 15 points down. Others were far more prepared mentally to face the crowd and live energy, and one of those essential players was Taj Gibson.

Gibson joined the Knicks after Mitchell Robinson went down with a fractured foot, and the veteran big man has been an absolute godsend for a team that lacked a physical presence inside. While he’s only averaging 5.4 points, 3.4 defensive rebounds, and 20.8 minutes per game, he currently has his best average block rate at 1.1 per game since 2016.

In Game 2, the Knicks wouldn’t have walked away with a victory without Gibson and his effort. His constant energy and desire to get after the ball and remain aggressive was a catalyst on defense, forcing stops and giving Knick shooters more opportunities to find the hoop.

Taj Gibson has become a leader for the New York Knicks:

Gibson detailed his excitement to play with this team, the reason they’re so close, and the trust they have with one another because of head coach Tom Thibodeau.

“The one thing about when you play for a Thibs team is that you’re going to put in a lot of work, you’re going to come together, you’re going to work every day as hard as you can,’’ Gibson said. “But along those trials and tribulations you become a family, you become real tight knit, you believe in each other. The way Thibs coaches he brings the whole group together, believing that it’s only us. So that’s kind of the mindset we take in. I just be myself, be the normal Taj I’ve been. It’s been working out for us. But it’s fun. We’ve got young guys, we’ve got a mixture of vets. Just pieces together, everybody works together, it’s a great atmosphere and it shows when we play.’’

This team seems to have a special bond, as they are mixed with a melting pot of veteran and youth faces, but they all understand their roles and have worked extremely hard to play at a high level this year. There’s no question they can defeat the Atlanta Hawks and make a postseason run, they just need to be firing on all cylinders.
With Nerlens Noel suffering an ankle sprain in Game one, Gibson has been asked to be a focal point. There is hope that Robinson can play on Friday evening, but even so, the Knicks feel confident that Taj can get the job done one way or another.
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