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Hawks manage to escape MSG with crazy victory over Knicks on Super Bowl Sunday

What a wild finish to this one.

Atlanta Hawks v New York Knicks Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks managed to escape Madison Square Garden with an unlikely victory over the New York Knicks on Super Bowl Sunday: 99-96.

Kent Bazemore — who was all-around great in this game — led the Hawks with 19 points, including the go-ahead basket with 6.7 seconds remaining. Mike Muscala added a season-high 15 points off of the bench, including three three-pointers.

Lineup change

Before we get into the nitty-gritty (and, boy, is there nitty-gritty with this one...), the Hawks were forced into a lineup change: Ersan Ilyasova was not with the team due to an illness so Dewayne Dedmon started in his place.

Dedmon scored 12 points and grabbed 14 rebounds (tying a season-best) in 29 minutes and looked the best he has been in a little while.

It was strange to see Miles Plumlee and Dewayne Dedmon start together (and it certainly would not have been the option I would’ve chosen) but both had really solid impacts in this game (Plumlee’s coming more in the first half).

It is a very small sample size (for good reason) but in 24 minutes together on the court, Plumlee and Dedmon have a net rating of 10.6 and a defensive rating of 102.4.

Again, small sample size for good reason, but the two played pretty well together against the duo of Porzingis and Enes Kanter.

Officiating error and NY’s implosion

Where to start with this one...

This was a closely contested game between these two sides: eight lead changes, 14 ties and no team led by more than eight points at any point. A close game.

So, fourth quarter: Knicks lead 89-86 with four minutes to play. Tim Hardaway Jr. is called for a foul on a three-point shot by Kent Bazemore, here it is:

An absolutely horrible call, clearly not a foul on Tim Hardaway Jr. there...

Regardless, Baze heads to the free throw line for three free throws. Shoots the first: misses. Shoots the second: misses, but the Knicks — and everyone else — plays for the rebound, despite the fact there should’ve been a third free throw to come.

However — and to the objections of pretty much nobody — play continues, and Porzingis finds THJ coming off of an O’Quinn screen for an ‘and-1’ dunk after Baze fouled Tim from behind:

However, as THJ prepares to shoot a free throw that would’ve put the Knicks up by six points with just over three and a half minutes remaining, the officials convene and realise they’ve made a mistake in allowing Baze to only shoot two free throws when it should’ve been three.

The officials wave off the Hardaway basket (we’ll get to why in a second) and go back the other end to allow Bazemore to shoot the third and final free throw, resetting the game to begin from the original officiating mistake, much to the displeasure of the home crowd.

Baze hits the third free throw to make it a two point game and play continues: no Hardaway basket and no five/possibly six point lead and: a huge momentum swing in this game, wiping off the energetic ‘and-1’ play.

Though, the Knicks would soon find themselves back in the position they would’ve originally been in (had THJ made the free throw): up six points with 2:15 remaining. The game was in their hands.

Fast forward: the Knicks are up 96-92 with 1:07 remaining after a Porzingis free throw, the first of two. KP misses the second free throw and it’s Tim Hardaway Jr. who comes up with a huge offensive rebound.

And you’re left thinking — in the split second THJ grabs this rebound — ‘Dang, that’s huge, now Knicks can dribble this clock out and possibly increase the lead and leave the Hawks with just around 40-ish seconds left to try and overcome a four or possibly six/seven point game’: it would’ve been almost be curtains for the Hawks at that stage.

But no, instead of doing any of that — instead of draining some clock — THJ immediately fades away and takes a shot which misses:

Absolutely incredible lack of awareness of the game-situation by THJ... And it gives the Hawks a chance, but only if they can score on their next trip, otherwise it really is match-point: New York.

And score their next trip the did. After a miss by Dennis Schröder, Dewayne Dedmon grabs the offensive rebounds and kicks it out to Mike Muscala, who buries the clutch three-pointer to bring the Hawks within a point with 47 seconds remaining:

I can only imagine the reactions of Knicks Twitter-sphere after this chain of events, but it wasn’t over yet...

The Knicks come the other way and, for some explicable reason, the ball is not in the hands of Kristaps Porzingis in a tight game in the fourth quarter, but Kyle O’Quinn. O’Quinn is faced by Muscala, who does a good job forcing the step-back and contests the shot, which is very flat and off:

I think O’Quinn was caught in two minds: pass to the briefly open Doug McDermott and shoot himself. It was a combination of both in the end and the Hawks now have the chance to take the lead.

Schröder gets inside, is cut off and kicks out to the perimeter to the open Mike Muscala. Muscala has already hit three threes in this game and has just hit one a moment ago to cut the lead to one, and THJ — I think in respect for not only what Moose did in this game but also as a former teammate — races out to try to take away that shot but Muscala sends it to the corner to the wide open Bazemore who hits the go-ahead three:

However, the job wasn’t done yet: 6.7 seconds left on the clock and up by just two points as the Knicks take a timeout.

And what do the Knicks draw out of the timeout? Well, we’ll never truly know because THJ, almost immediately upon receiving the ball, threads his heel on the sideline and out-of-bounds, giving the ball back to the Hawks:

The Hawks inbound the ball and get it Dedmon, who had a lot of time to pass to a better free throw shooter and ends up missing the first free throw before making the second. That could’ve proved costly on another day...

The Knicks call a timeout with 3.5 seconds left and out of it, THJ gets a good looking attempt on a three which misses:

Ball game: somehow, the Hawks manage to emerge with a victory.

But the big talking point after this one was the decision to wipe off THJ’s basket and come back and shoot Baze’s final free throw... It was a huge moment in this game.

However, officials got it correct, and rather than trying to explain it myself, here’s crew chief Pat Fraher postgame:

Because the officials realized their mistake within the 24 in-game seconds after the error took place, the basket was wiped away and game reset from when the original error took place. That is why THJ’s basket was wiped away.

It is absolutely brutal if you’re a Knicks fan, it could’ve changed the outcome of this game but it was, ultimately, the right decision. And the Knicks themselves, postgame, acknowledged it was the correct thing decision and that the game was not lost on that decision.

“That play didn’t really affect the outcome of the game,” said Knicks guard Courtney Lee postgame via The New York Post. “That’s the rules. You can’t complain about it. He got fouled on a 3-pointer, and he was supposed to shoot three free throws, and he only shot two. It’s the right thing to do.”

“I’ve never seen anything like it, but I still feel it was our game (to lose),” said Knicks All-Star Kristaps Porzingis.

“It was obviously a big play, but still, with that, we have a lead and we didn’t finish it,” Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek added. “We didn’t say anything about the refs. That’s part of the game. If that happened with five seconds to go in the game it might be different.”

So, that happened, and then the choke-job took place after that (Knicks were up six with just over two minutes to go), and the sense in the Knicks locker room is pretty interesting to read: a sense of embarrassment and disbelief.

Hornacek described it as “...tough loss, probably the toughest of the year.’’

Courtney Lee wasn’t in agreement when it came to labelling the game as a ‘tough loss’ but an embarrassing loss.

“Personally I wouldn’t say tough (loss),” said Courtney Lee. “I would say the most embarrassing game we lost.”

“Honestly the feeling is I can’t even process we lost,” said Porzingis. “I can’t believe it. It was our game — 100 percent our game.”

Hardaway, according to the New York Post (story linked above), dressed in the trainer’s room and did not make himself available to the media postgame.

He knows he messed up big-time. And his teammates know that he knows he messed up...

“We all know it wasn’t a good shot and he knows it,’’ said Porzingis of Hardaway’s ill-advised shot. “He shot the ball too early and should’ve kept the ball and let the time run out. Stuff happens. We make mistakes. I missed the free throw.”

For Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer, you know, he’s been around the game a long time. Postgame, he said he has never seen anything quite like that in a game before and that Hawks caught a break as a result.

“I can’t remember anything like that,” said Bud (via the FSSE broadcast). “It’s unfortunate (for the Knicks). We caught a break there, no doubt about it. I think because it was so close to when it actually happened, sometimes it seems like things go on and maybe you go back and watch film and you saw something something should’ve been different. No, I’ve never seen anything like that.”

Budenholzer believed at the time that Baze was supposed to shoot three free throws but pondered on the possibility that a foot may have been on the line, before adding that it was “fortuitous” that a foul was called on the Knicks’ very next possession, the stoppage of the clock allowing the officials to convene and discuss what happened within those 24 in-game seconds and enable them to correct the play.

“I was expecting three (free throws),” added Bud. “(Bazemore) missed the first, missed the second. I thought it was three (free throws) but it’s like, ‘Well, maybe I missed something. Maybe they saw him on the line’, but I thought he was pretty far behind the line. It was just a little bit unusual. Then they ran their play and there’s a foul and in some ways it’s fortuitous there’s foul on the play and they can go to the clock and correct it. I think when there’s that short of time then you go back and reset it.”

Looking away from that decision and Knicks’ incredible implosion — especially from THJ — Kent Bazemore deserves a lot of credit for obviously not just making that go-ahead basket but all the other baskets he made in this game too.

I’m not sure if his last shot technically counts as game-winner since Dedmon actually scored after the fact from the stripe (?) but for all intents and purposes, it’s Baze’s second game-winner this season.

Mike Muscala also deserves a lot of praise too. Not only were his 15 points off of the bench huge but three big plays from Moose in the clutch helped the Hawks win this game: the three-pointer to cut the lead to one after that THJ shot, the defensive stop on O’Quinn and then the assist to Baze in the corner.

A great end to a great game for Moose and a great win on the road for the team, who have now won a season-series against an Eastern Conference team: this was the third and final meeting between these two sides this season, with Atlanta winning at home back in November and New York also winning at home in December.

Three-point differential

The three-point story played a huge role in this game and it swing massively in favor of the Hawks, who shot 45.5% from three (15-of-33) while the Knicks shot just 21% from three (5-of-23).

Kent Bazemore hit four triples (4-of-7 including, of course, the go-ahead basket), Moose (as we’ve also discussed) hit three of his five triples and Taurean Prince (who followed up his career nigh in Boston with a solid outing of 10 points) also hit three three-pointers.

For the Knicks, they just couldn’t make shots: 0-of-4 for Courtney Lee, 2-of-6 for Porzingis and 1-of-3 for both THJ and Jarrett Jack.

The Hawks’ three-point shooting has been a success story for them this season, ranking 9th in three-point percentage at 37.1% and it played a huge role in swinging victory in their favor.

Dennis Schröder’s rough game

A very rough game for Dennis Schröder: 10 points on 2-of-16 shooting (1-of-11 at halftime) from the field and 0-of-4 from three.

There were times where Dennis was able to — easily at times — get to his spots but just couldn’t hit anything:

And then, as is the case with Dennis at times, there were just some bad shots.

Here’s a straightaway shot with absolutely zero offense run and with Jack there to contest:

And just generally settling for jumpshots:

Schröder also missed opportunities to find open teammates in favor of finding his own offense, here’s an example (before getting his second chance effort blocked too, which was a dreadful shot):

This shot is a little better, but there’s still a better shot than this, again, with Marco Belinelli, who’s in the corner:

The fact the Hawks won this game shouldn’t change the narrative of how bad Schröder was in this game offensively. Yes, he missed some of his usual looks but just a lot of bad shots in here too...

His backup, Malcolm Delaney, had a very solid game as he scored five points but dished out eight assists to go with just one turnover.

The Hawks (16-36) are back in action on Tuesday night when they’ll take on the Memphis Grizzlies at Philips Arena.

Should be interesting, stay tuned.