May 7, 2021; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (30) reacts against the Phoenix Suns in the second half at Phoenix Suns Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
The New York Knicks were embarrassed by the Atlanta Hawks on Friday evening, losing by 11 points, as the entire starting Hawks team earned double-digit points.
Of course, Trae Young was their catalyst at offense, scoring 21 points and recording a game-high 14 assists, showcasing his ability to spread the ball around the floor efficiently. Nonetheless, thereâ€™s no real way to stop Young but rather limit him and mitigate his influence on the game.
The issue the Knicks are currently facing is:
While Atlanta’s star player is balling out, All-Star Julius Randle simply hasnâ€™t been able to replicate his regular-season performance. Randle scored just 14 points in the loss at Atlanta, shooting 2-of-15 from the field, missing open shots, and making poor decisions. It is clear when watching Randle move lately, he doesnâ€™t have the same confidence and isnâ€™t taking the same high percentage shots.
â€œTheyâ€™re loaded up pretty good,â€ Thibodeau said. â€œItâ€™s not just the second guy, itâ€™s the third guy also. So when that happens, the big thing is to get rid of the ball, make plays early. When you do that, usually you can get really high percentage shots off of that. And with your primary scorers, thatâ€™s what you want.â€
Essentially, the Knicks need to be more communicative and efficient with the ball in their hands, matching Atlanta’s best players and then taking advantage of their reserves. Unfortunately, Atlanta has been able to rest a majority of their starters throughout the game, as the Knicks compile fatigue with their primary options against backup Hawks.
If the Knicks want any chance of extracting a win on Sunday, it must be through Randle; he disappointed significantly during his first-ever postseason series.
Veteran point guard Derrick Rose has carried the load, scoring 30 points on 13-of-21 shooting and connecting on three 3-PT point shots out of five attempts. While his defense was spotty given the uneven match-up between him and Young, his offensive production has helped keep the Knicks in the picture.
The unfortunate truth is that if Randle and RJ Barrett donâ€™t step up and take over in game four, the Knicks will likely see an early exit in their first postseason series since 2013. Whether it be the energy of the crowd that is overwhelming, we know they can play better basketball than what they’ve produced lately. It feels as though they aren’t enjoying the process as they were during their 10 game win streak a few weeks ago.