Mike Woodson was the last coach to guide New York Knicks to an eight-game winning streak.
Woodson watched at courtside on Wednesday night as the current Knicks matched his 2014 team’s record with a come-from-behind 137-127 overtime win over the Atlanta Hawks.
Returning to The Garden for the first time since he left the team and accepted the head coaching job at his alma mater Indiana University, Woodson was treated to Julius Randle’s third 40-point performance this season. And more importantly, the Knicks (33-27) grabbed the solo fourth in the East with 12 games remaining in their schedule.
Randle scored 13 of his 40 points in the fourth quarter and overtime as the Knicks wiped out an eight-point deficit.
“It sounds good (to have the sole possession of the fourth seed). I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished so far. But we’re not done yet,” Randle said.
In a game with the intensity and physicality of a playoff match, the Knicks proved to be the steadier team.
Bodies flew everywhere in a bloody war for playoff positioning.
Taj Gibson went down in the first half with a laceration on his eyelid and never returned. Nerlens Noel took a blow to his mouth but came back in the fourth quarter.
The Hawks were unluckier as their leader Trae Young left the game late in the third quarter with a left ankle sprain. Young’s injury left the door wide open for a Knicks comeback.
The Knicks seized the opportunity, erasing an eight-point deficit in the fourth quarter.
â€œWeâ€™ve been challenged throughout the season, and sometimes they havenâ€™t gone our way,â€ Randle said. â€œBut right now, weâ€™re finding ways to close games and win games.â€
Rookie Immanuel Quickley rose to the occasion, igniting a 12-0 Knicks run with two booming triples. Randle punctuated the run with four straight free throws as the Knicks grabbed a four-point lead, 113-109, their first lead in the second half.
Without Young, Bogdan Bogdanovic stepped up for the Hawks and scored seven of the last Hawks’ nine points inside the final 2:48 to force overtime. He hit the game-tying corner three off a beautiful inbound play with 6.9 seconds left.
Randle missed a tough fadeaway at the buzzer. But he redeemed himself with a big triple and two crucial assists in the extra time.
Quickley, who took over the point guard role after Derrick Rose fouled out late in the regulation, jumpstarted the Knicks’ finishing kick in overtime.Â He hit a runner off the glass, followed by Randle’s huge triple.
â€œThis was a playoff-type atmosphere,â€ Quickley said. â€œAs an NBA player, you have to be ready to step up.â€
Randle then set up Reggie Bullock for another three and Noel for an easy slam that opened up a 10-point lead.
The Hawks (32-27) never recovered, and they slid to the fifth spot in the East.
It was Randle’s second 40-point game against the Hawks as the Knicks swept their season series. Randle dropped 28 and season-high 44 points in their two previous meetings. It marked the first time New York has swept Atlanta since the 2012-13 season where they last went to the playoffs.
Clint Capela survived a nasty fall in the fourth quarter and led Atlanta with a monster game of 25 points and 22 rebounds. The Hawks dominated inside the paint, 64-52, but the Knicks continued to stay hot from the outside.
New York had 19 triples on a whopping 54.3 percent.
Randle and Bullock each had six, while Quickley added four.
Randle rounded up his stat line with 11 rebounds and six assists. Bullock added 18, all from beyond the arc.
Rose and Quickley sizzled off the bench with 20 points apiece. RJ Barrett overcame another rough first half to finish with 16 points, six rebounds, and five assists. He was 1 for 9 in the first two quarters, but he hit his strides in the third with nine points.
Young was having a stellar game (20 points, 14 assists) before tweaking his left ankle. Bogdanovic contributed 20 points.
Coach Woodson is family. Forever. pic.twitter.com/8L44BKpZFh
â€” NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) April 22, 2021
The Knicks will have a shot at rewriting history against the Toronto Raptors on Saturday.
Woodson, who was part of Thibodeauâ€™s staff at the start of the season, couldnâ€™t be happier to see this team grow. He went home with Randle’s autographed jersey as a souvenir for matching his 2014 Knicks’ feat.
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