The New York Knicks have been in the playoffs for the last three seasons, but have never been successful in their quest to win a title. However, the team did manage to reach the second round last season, where they were swept out by a LeBron James-less Cleveland Cavaliers. The Knicks managed to make the playoffs again this year, but they were knocked out in the first round, losing to the Atlanta Hawks, who are currently leading their series one game to zero.
The New York Knicks had not won a playoff game since 2013, but on Wednesday night they took a commanding lead over the Atlanta Hawks three games into the best-of-seven series. The Knicks took the lead with a 22-point third quarter, and cruised to a 112-96 win. The Knicks will attempt to win a first-round series for the first time since 2000.
The New York Knicks staked their claim to the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed with a 108-100 victory in Atlanta on Tuesday, giving them a two-game lead over the Boston Celtics and a chance to close out the playoffs at home.. Read more about new york knicks record and let us know what you think.12:32 AM ET.
But before they see that wish fulfilled – which may not happen until the Eastern Conference Finals – they have a lot of work to do against the Hawks.
The Knicks were down 15 points in the first half, forcing Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau to make a couple of team changes early in the third quarter. Elfrid Payton and Nerlens Noel were at the table in place of Derrick Rose and Taj Gibson, two of Thibodeau’s longtime team leaders.
These changes have paid off.
We got off to a slow start and then our bench played very well, Thibodeau said. Then we slowly finished the second quarter. So I just wanted to change that. We wanted to do something different. That’s why you have a bank. Those guys came in and played well. I thought they played well in the first half, so I wanted to give us a different look, and it paid off.
Rose and Gibson are the two oldest members of this year’s Knicks, both in age and playoff experience. Before the playoffs, Rose and Gibson had a combined 112 playoff appearances in their careers, compared to 37 for other players.
Thibodeau said the experience made his team stronger in the second half.
We have some guys who haven’t played in playoff games yet and they will get better as the game goes on, Thibodeau said. There is only one way to live this experience, and that is to live it. I think they’re getting better every game. I think you learn from every match. You learn from every situation. But I think the fact that these guys have played in big games is a big plus for our team.
The Knicks’ bench outscored the starting lineup 30-14 in the first half, with Rose leading the way. He ended up scoring 26 points in 39 minutes. This after having played 38 minutes in the first game.
Although he was benched in 32 of the Knicks’ 35 regular season games, Rose said he prepared for those minutes.
I’ve been preparing myself and getting my body in shape for a few years now, Rose said. I take very good care of myself. I don’t want to talk about it too much because I don’t want to jinx it. But I’m fine.
Rose was also pleased with his play in the second game after not being at his best in the first.
I’m just glad it feels right. We won, and I didn’t play at all like I did in the first game, Rose said. I tried to hit the ball every time it went through the half court. And I was just trying to play it cool. I didn’t watch the last game and was disappointed in myself.
A strong start from Rose and the bench helped the Knicks deal with a slow start from Randle, who was named the league’s most productive player Tuesday. Randle went 0-for-6 in the first half and scored just two points.
But he started the game in the third quarter and scored 11 points; he finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds.
We went into the third quarter knowing we couldn’t lose two games on our own court, Randle said. Our intensity was just of a different level, especially defensively. Derrick, Reggie and those guys did a great job with the ball. We were able to stop, get out and play a little bit faster. We played at our best pace in attack.
The Knicks’ defense came into its own in the second half and limited the Hawks to a 28% shooting percentage, their worst performance in a half this season.
Atlanta was particularly cold against Randle. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Hawks used 0-of-15 against Randle as their primary defender. The team went 0 for 15 against a player for the first time since the data was recorded in the 2013/14 playoffs.
Gibson, from Brooklyn, is playing under Thibodeau for the third time in his career, following periods in Chicago and Minnesota. He said he remembered talking to Thibodeau after practice in his first season and second year with the Bulls about what a possible playoff game against the Knicks would look like if Garden were healthy again.
Although they work in different teams, he doesn’t take that for granted.
I don’t know how to explain it, Gibson said. But every day I come here, it’s unreal. You have to pinch yourself when you play in the Gardena.
It’s one of the hardest places to play, but also one of the most fun places to play if you get it right. We’re just trying to do something special here, and we’re paving the way for that now. It’s an incredible feeling.
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