The New York Knicks are preparing to take on the Atlanta Hawks in the second game of their opening post-season series. In game one, the Knicks, unfortunately, fell at home by just two points, thanks to Trae Young and a couple of free shooting lanes.
The Knicks’ methodology to shut down Young simply did not work; his shiftiness and ability to get to the hoop were simply too much to handle. Even with Frank Ntilikina marking Young on the game’s final play, they clearly werenâ€™t able to stop him and give themselves a better chance of extracting a victory.
Moving forward, the Knicks have an opportunity to bounce back, and thereâ€™s no question they can win a game two as long as Julius Randle is competing at a high level.
Three keys to beating the Atlanta Hawks for the New York Knicks:
1.) Julius Randle must return with a vengeance
Randle struggled considerably in game one, scoring just 15 points and recording four assists. Both of those categories were below average for his season, shooting just 6-of-23 from the field and 2-of-6 from three-point. If the Knicks want to walk away with a victory before heading to Atlanta, Randle must step up and play better. It was clear that the postseason jitters were taking hold, but weâ€™ve seen him rise to the occasion in the past, and I fully expect him to shake off the nerves on Wednesday evening.
2.) 3-PT shooting must be better
The past few months have seen the Knicks take a stratospheric leap in three-point percentage, but they shot just 33.3% in game one. If not for Alec Burks and Immanuel Quickley, the Knicks’ three-point percentage wouldâ€™ve been embarrassingly low. They combined for 37 points, leading the offense off the bench.
Reggie Bullock missed all of his five attempts from beyond the arc, as just one of them wouldâ€™ve been enough to secure the victory, so it was clear that a few Knick players simply couldnâ€™t handle the bright lights of MSG and the energy flowing through the stadium.
3.) Cannot allow Trae Young open lanes to the rim
The most obvious factor in this game is stopping Trae Young, who scored 32 points on 11-of-23 shooting from the field. He hit all nine of his free throws, so refraining from fouling Trae is a priority. He also spread the ball around tremendously well, recording 10 assists, including two offensive rebounds, which is unacceptable.
The Knicks wanted to stop Young from shooting primarily, giving him open lanes to test his floater, which he did not frequently miss with. In fact, whether that was their strategy or simply a miscommunication on defense, Young took full advantage of that flaw. Clogging the interior must be a priority, which means whoever is defending Young must understand that heâ€™s trying to maneuver his way to the rim â€” better communication is needed.