Trae Young led the way with a mighty 45 points and eight assists while Bogdan Bogdanovic scored a season-high 32 points off the bench.
For the Knicks — without Julius Randle, Nerlens Noel, Derrick Rose and Cam Reddish — RJ Barrett scored 30 points, Alec Burks added 21 points.
This game was a back-and-forth affair from the point of view of when a team took a double-digit lead, the other team responded in pretty quick fashion. From the Hawks’ side of things this happened both in the second quarter and in the fourth quarter.
In the second quarter, it was a heavy scoring effort from Bogdanovic (15 points) and Young (13 points) who helped bring the Hawks out of that deficit and into the lead. Young carried the Hawks towards the end of the quarter but it was Bogdanovic who slashed the Knicks’ 12 point lead to get the Hawks back into this game/preventing the Knicks from stretching too far away. Young and Bogdanovic combined for 28 of the Hawks’ 34 second quarter points as they took a lead into the break.
In beginning of the fourth quarter — with Young on the bench — the Hawks’ offense just died and the Knicks made a run to take a double-digit lead in the final frame. When Young returned the Knicks held a seven point lead after Danilo Gallinari had just hit a three-pointer, and with just under four and a half minutes left in the game the Knicks take a five point lead through Burks.
It was another game where the Hawks found themselves in down the stretch, so let’s take a look at how they managed to not only erase the Knicks’ lead but take one themselves to win this game.
Bogdanovic gets himself to the free throw line on the drive from the corner as he gets by Barrett and draws the contact:
The Hawks produce a stop on the other end as Barrett — who had already gotten to the free throw line 17 times by this point in the game — drives into the lane again but both Kevin Huerter and Clint Capela are there to thwart him, with Huerter being credited with the block at the rim:
Great defense from Huerter here to move well with Barrett on this possession and Capela being on-hand to help creates a nice quick turnaround for the Hawks to go on the attack. The Hawks attack through Bogdanovic and as the Knicks set their defense up, Bogdanovic takes Immanuel Quickley in the post before spinning to hit the fadeaway jumper:
With the Knicks taking a timeout — their double-digit lead of just a few moments ago now cut to one point — the Hawks suffer a breakdown after said timeout. Mitchell Robinson goes to set the screen on Huerter for Quickley and Capela steps in front of Quickley to prevent him receiving the ball for an open opportunity but when Robinson rolls to the rim no one helps or picks him up and Robinson has an easy basket at a crucial time:
Next possession, the Hawks do a great job moving the basketball after Capela’s successful offensive rebound on the Bogdanovic missed three. When Capela taps it out to De’Andre Hunter, Hunter kicks it out to Huerter, Huerter draws a scrambling Knicks defense before offloading the ball to Bogdanovic, who quickly shuffles the ball to Young, and Young knocks down the three to tie the game:
The Knicks probably felt good about their prospects on their next offensive trip as Burks looks to attack Young but Young is active defensively and Capela arrives and helps complete the defensive play as he contests Burks’ shot which is missed:
Good timing from Capela to help Young complete the defensive play and a good job from Kevin Huerter to help on the boards and secure the ball for the Hawks.
The Hawks then execute really solidly offensively as Huerter passes the ball to Capela, who hands-off to the on-coming Young and Young finds Bogdanovic for three in the corner to give the Hawks the lead once again:
The Knicks did not get much of an opportunity to respond as Alec Burks is called for a foul as he and Huerter get tangled up off the ball:
The Hawks, again, execute on offense as Huerter swings the ball to the corner to Hunter who hits the three to give the Hawks a six point lead and leads to a Knicks timeout:
The Knicks throwing a double at Young and two men scrambling to Huerter on the perimeter opened the floor nicely for Hunter, and a nice pass to him from Huerter.
Out of the timeout, Hunter blocks Barrett’s attempts inside and the Hawks force the turnover as Bogdanovic knocks the ball away and Huerter retrieves:
To ice the game, Young is switched onto by Taj Gibson and Young just drops him to the floor and hits the jumper, essentially completing the turnaround and sealing the game for the visitors:
The Hawks take the 117-111 victory in the end, outscoring the Knicks 30-20 in the final quarter with 25 of those 30 points coming when Young checked back into the game at the 7:44 mark.
Honestly — with how often the Hawks have come up short this season and how poor their fourth quarter plus/minus has been this season — this was one of the better executed fourth quarter/stretch runs of the season from the Hawks. On both ends of the ball the Hawks got consistent stops and baskets — crisp baskets too, deriving from good ball movement.
Hawks head coach Nate McMillan referenced note his team’s composure when his side fell behind by double-digits again in the fourth quarter and made note of Bogdanovic’s fourth quarter efforts as a key reason the Hawks got back into this game.
“I thought we kept our composure,” said McMillan of the stretch run. “We get down 10 and guys just stay with it. Defensively we knew we had to get some stops and we were able to get those stops and make some big shots. I thought Bogi made some big shots for us. We put the ball in his hands in the third and fourth quarter and he was able to get us back in the game down the stretch.”
“Stay encouraged, stick to the game, play more aggressively and don’t stop being aggressive even after a couple of turnovers, a couple of missed shots and don’t be stagnant with the ball, keep moving the ball,” added Bogdanovic of the fourth quarter. “We talked about it a lot lately and we did it tonight.”
The ball movement in the fourth quarter showed improvement in the fourth quarter after a two-assist third quarter following 19 assists in the first half, with McMillan drawing particular attention to his both during the game (both in his ‘Wired’ segment during the TNT broadcast) and postgame.
“I thought offensively we really did a nice job in the first half of moving the basketball,” said McMillan. “We have guys that can shoot the ball. When we have movement like that we normally shoot a high percentage and play a good game. We had 19 assists in the first half and it was really good ball movement from side-to-side playing in our third and fourth option. I thought the third and fourth quarter — most of that third quarter — the ball stopped moving and we started either shooting quickly or one pass and a shot and we didn’t make them defend us. Most NBA teams, they’re going to defend that first and second option. You’ve got to get to your third and fourth option. I thought we got a bit more movement in that fourth quarter and was able to knock down some shots.”
To be fair, the Hawks helped limit themselves in the third quarter by only attempting 16 shots compared to the Knicks’ 25 field goal attempts; not helped by the Hawks committing six turnovers in the third quarter alone. In the end only two of the Hawks’ seven made field goals were assisted.
Bogdanovic himself scored a season-high 32 points on 11-of-20 shooting from the field and 4-of-10 from three. Bogdanovic’s efforts were extremely timely in this game: scoring in bunches in the second quarter to erase the Knicks’ first double-digit lead and then scoring 13 points in the fourth quarter.
You’d be forgiven for thinking Young scored more points in the fourth quarter since the offense took a massive swing in form when he entered the game but Young scored just seven points in the final period (the majority of his scoring work coming in the previous three quarters (11, 13 and 14 points respectively) — it was Bogdanovic who did the majority of the scoring in the fourth quarter, helped made possible by Young of course.
Young, of course, will claim the headlines with his 45 points on 13-of-25 shooting from the field, 7-of-15 from three and 12-of-14 from the free throw line in his much publicised first return to Madison Square Garden since the playoffs.
Without John Collins still as well as Lou Williams for this game, Young stated he wanted to be aggressive to make up for the missing scoring load through said absences.
“I always try to take what the defense is giving me,” said Young postgame. “I wanted to come into here and be aggressive. Obviously we don’t have Lou and JC, and those two guys bring a lot of scoring to our team. Definitely wanted to be aggressive and have that mindset from the jump.”
A standard enough, cliché answer from Young but to be fair the Hawks and Young have talked about Young being more aggression of late so I suppose it is worth noting in this spot too.
Young has drawn the ire of the Knicks fandom since his showing last year but to be fair I expected a harsher reception for him than the one he ultimately received last night. All things considered it was pretty tame, I imagine in part due to the fact the Knicks’ season is already over with very little hope of displacing the Hawks from the final play-in spot — the Hawks’ victory also cementing a losing season for the Knicks with 42 losses on the season.
Still, Young excelled in the semi-hostile environment with Bogdan Bogdanovic noting that Young thrives when ‘provoked’ and the Knicks fan’s slander serves as provocation.
“You see it, he loves it,” said Bogdanovic of Young. “What I really like about him and before I came here I really like his competitive mindset all the time. He doesn’t take days off. He competes every single time in every thing. He’s really competitive and when you provoke him he likes that. I think maybe he misses it because everyone says, ‘Oh, Trae is All-Star, First-Team and all that,’ so he needs that little chip on his shoulder again, some trash talk from the fans. He always responds well.”
The Knicks were obviously short-handed here; the absence of Randle especially crippling for an already reeling side but they played well, to give them credit. Their lack of success down the stretch coincided with Barrett’s well running dry as he no longer drew the fouls he had earlier in the game and without a reliable jumpshot down the stretch the Knicks were limited offensively.
The Knicks shooting 14-of-26 from the free throw line was a big factor in this game too. What also didn’t help from this point of view was that all 26 free throws were drawn by just three players: Barrett (17, making 11 of them), Robinson (six, making just one) and Quickley (three).
The Hawks executed fantastically down the stretch and, all-in-all, deserved to take victory here. Obviously Young and Bogdanovic were fantastic, as was Capela on the defensive end, with Hunter helping limit Barrett to 9-of-25 shooting from the field.
What I’m more interested to see, however, is how the Hawks follow this up against the Detroit Pistons tonight on the second night of a back-to-back that isn’t on national television.
The Hawks (36-36) are back in action in Detroit tonight to take on the Pistons (19-53), hoping to right the wrongs of their overtime defeat not long ago.
Until next time...