The Atlanta Hawks picked up a steady, convincing victory in Game 3 against the New York Knicks on Friday evening, taking a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven first round clash. Less than 40 hours after the final buzzer, the two teams took the court again at State Farm Arena for a Sunday matinee battle in Game 4, with the Hawks aiming to snatch a commanding 3-1 edge. Though the first half was competitive, Atlanta threw a knockout punch after halftime and the hosts picked up a 113-96 win.
It was an ugly start for both teams at the outset, with some sloppy, uneven basketball emerging as a result. Atlanta opened just 2-of-9 from the floor with five turnovers in the early going. They still claimed a 13-9 lead on the back of Trae Young, though, as the superstar guard accounted for all 13 points via his scoring and passing prowess.
The Hawks were ice-cold from long distance, but they managed to hang around by holding New York’s offense in check. Atlanta tried its full bench unit — after going away from it entirely in Game 3 — to negative results (-4 in a 2:34 stretch), but the Hawks still managed to trail by only a single point after 12 minutes.
After the Knicks drew first blood in building a 30-25 lead early in the second quarter, the Hawks countered with a three-point barrage. Bogdan Bogdanovic, Danilo Gallinari and Kevin Huerter all connected on triples with 57 seconds, with Atlanta’s 9-0 run giving them a 34-30 advantage.
The middle portion of the second quarter was an exercise in triage, with the Knicks having some encouraging moments offensively. The two teams traded 6-0 mini runs (with Young scoring all six points for Atlanta), but the Hawks later put together their second explosion of the quarter.
Following a timeout to slow New York’s six-point spurt, Atlanta scored eight points in approximately 40 seconds, with five points from John Collins and a three-pointer from Bogdanovic to cap the run.
The Hawks held a four-point lead at the break, based heavily on a 6-of-12 mark from three-point range in the second quarter. While the team’s offense wasn’t exceptional in the first half, Young scored 15 points and Collins added 11 points and five rebounds. Atlanta also held New York to fewer than a point per possession in the first 24 minutes, which was key to establishing a strong baseline.
There were plenty of optimistic signs in the first half for the Hawks and, in short, the second half belonged to the home team. Atlanta wasted no time setting the tone after halftime, zooming to a 15-5 run behind stellar play from Young, Collins and De’Andre Hunter.
Hawks start the 3rd with a 15-5 run. John Collins finishes out this possession with an open corner 3 as Atlanta has the Knicks in recovery mode on defense and NY's rotations can't keep up with the ball movement. pic.twitter.com/w9oZt4XqSY— Mike Vorkunov (@MikeVorkunov) May 30, 2021
New York did answer with seven straight points of their own, but that was really the final push from the Knicks. Shortly after, Young connected on a three-pointer to put Atlanta back in front by a 15-point margin.
Other than Collins needing stitches for a lip laceration (he returned to the game), the third quarter went according to plan. Bogdanovic put the final stamp on a dominant period with a pair of three-pointers in the final minute, giving the Hawks a 17-point edge.
That 17-point edge was enough to inspire confidence, and the lead also grew in short order when the fourth quarter arrived. The Hawks used a 9-3 run to break things wide open, even with Young resting after playing the entire third period.
Atlanta led by as many as 26 points in the fourth quarter, and the Knicks never mounted a run. The Knicks were called for a technical foul and a flagrant foul in the back half of the period but, aside from those fireworks, the result was never in doubt and the Hawks secured a rather dominant victory.
As often, Young led the way for Atlanta, scoring 27 points and dishing out nine assists in 33 minutes. Collins was also tremendous, adding 22 points and eight rebounds in 28 minutes, and Capela produced 10 points and 15 rebounds. Gallinari enjoyed a tremendous game off the bench with 21 points (on 6-of-9 shooting and 8-of-8 from the free throw line), and both Huerter and Bogdanovic contributed at a high level on the wing.
The Hawks were tremendous offensively in the competitive portion of the game, scoring more than 1.2 points per possession with real balance. Defensively, Atlanta continued its success against Julius Randle — he is shooting 27.4 percent from the floor in the series — and the formula was enough to secure a 3-1 series lead.
The Hawks and Knicks will now have two full days off before returning to Madison Square Garden for Game 5 on Wednesday evening.