For Trae Young, the Atlanta Hawks’ first-round series against the New York Knicks became personal during a Game 1 win in which he was continually taunted by a rabid Madison Square Garden crowd.
Things became personal for the rest of his teammates late in a Game 4 win — just in time for the Hawks to receive a chance to deliver to the Knicks the most hurtful blow of all.
The Hawks will look to close out an increasingly feisty series Wednesday night, when they are scheduled to visit the Knicks in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
The Hawks took a commanding three games to one series lead Sunday, when six players scored in double figures and host Atlanta led by as many as 26 points in the fourth quarter of a 113-96 victory.
The Hawks, who won both games in Atlanta, are trying to advance beyond the first round for the first since the spring of 2016, when they reached the conference semifinals.
“Obviously we’re excited to win a game,” said Young, who scored a game-high 27 points. “But the job’s not done. It’s not done until the series is over. We have to have that same mentality, that same approach — try to go up to New York and finish it there.”
Only 13 of the 260 NBA teams to fall behind three games to one in the postseason have come back to win the series. The Knicks are 0-for-13 in such situations, but All-Star power forward Julius Randle expressed equal parts defiance and confidence Sunday afternoon.
“I like our chances,” Randle said. “To answer your question (about the Knicks’ plight), I love our chances. It’s not over. It’s not nearly over.”
Nor is the animosity between the teams. Hawks power forward John Collins received four stitches in his lip after being hit by Randle as the latter drove toward the hoop in the third quarter. Randle was whistled for an offensive foul following a replay challenge from Atlanta head coach Nate McMillan.
Late in the fourth, Hawks forward Danilo Gallinari hit Knicks forward Reggie Bullock around the neck. On the next possession, Randle was issued a flagrant foul after shoving Gallinari following a whistle.
“They try to play tough, push our guys around, talk (stuff), but we can do that too,” Hawks center Clint Capela said Tuesday morning before he all but guaranteed Atlanta would win Wednesday night.
“What (are) you going to do about it?” Capela said. “We can be physical, but we can win games as well and now we’re coming to your home to win this game again. And send you on vacation.”
To stave off the summer, the Knicks, who allowed a league-low 104.7 points per game during the regular season, will need to rediscover their defensive identity. The Hawks’ 113 points Sunday were the most surrendered by New York since a 128-105 loss to the Phoenix Suns on May 7.
The Knicks haven’t won a game in which they’ve allowed more than 110 points since a 137-127 overtime win over the Hawks on April 21 — and haven’t won when allowing more than 110 points in regulation since a 131-113 victory over the Washington Wizards on March 23.
“We’ve got to fix it,” Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau said. “We’ve got to fix it fast.”
–Field Level Media