It was a Knicks-Hawks battle for the fourth seed and home-court advantage, and it became a night of bloody carnage and overtime at the frenzied Garden.
It was a Knicks-Hawks battle royal for the fourth seed and home-court advantage, and it became a night of bloody carnage and overtime at the frenzied Garden.
The Knicks survived.
Julius Randle scored 40 points and the Knicks (33-27) won their eighth straight game, posting a 137-127 victory Wednesday night before a wild crowd of 2,000 that was hyped right from the national anthem. The Knicks tied their longest winning streak since 2014.
With a 3-point shooting frenzy, the Knicks came out on top in the physical battle, which forced Hawks superstar Trae Young to miss the fourth quarter and OT.
The Knicks moved into sole possession of fourth place in the Eastern Conference, which means if the season ended today, they would host a first-round playoff series. And it could be against these hot Hawks, which the Knicks swept 3-0 in the season series. There are a dozen games left before the Knicks’ first postseason since 2013.
“It feels good, but we’re not done yet,’’ Randle said on the court after the thriller. “We knew we had to have it. We know what we’re fighting for at the end of the day. There was a lot of times we could’ve let go of the rope but we didn’t. We’re just a bunch of guys who bring a hard hat to every game.”
“It was a playoff-type atmosphere,’’ said RJ Barrett, who shook off a poor first half to finish with 16 points. “Bodies were flying everywhere.’’
Randle now has two 40-point outings against the Hawks this season. He scored two big baskets in the final 1:18 of the fourth quarter, but the Knicks couldn’t finish off Atlanta.
Not yet. Randle, however, dealt the Hawks the death blow in OT, draining a 3-pointer and dishing to Reggie Bullock (18 points) for another 3 to put the Knicks up by eight points with 2:30 left. They scored the first 10 points of OT to steal fourth place from the Hawks.
“Fourth place sounds good, but we have a long way to go,’’ Randle said. “It’s not about just getting fourth place. We’re trying to build something here, build a culture, build things the right way. We have a team that everyone believes in each other so we feel like we can do anything and anything’s possible for us.’’
Randle shot 6-for-8 on his 3-pointers, while the Knicks drained 19 of 35 shots from beyond the arc on the night. Derrick Rose fouled out late in the fourth quarter, but finished with 20 points. Rookie Immanuel Quickley heated up from 3-point range (4-for-6 shooting) and finished with 20 points.
“It just shows how resilient we are, how together we are,’’ Barrett said. “Everybody is playing well. Julius is killing it, but down the board, everyone’s getting their numbers.’’
The Knicks — shockingly — are the sixth-best 3-point shooting team in the NBA.
“We knew we had to make the commitment,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. “It was a concern going into training camp: How good we can shoot the 3? I think by working the way they worked, it’s given them confidence. And we’re shooting the right 3s. That’s probably the most important thing. We’re not just jacking up any old 3.’’
It was a violent game. The Knicks lost their two centers, Nerlens Noel and Taj Gibson, to bloody facial injuries, then third-string center Norvel Pelle took out Young.
“It was pretty intense out there,’’ Thibodeau said. “We were searching tonight. But we have a true team and we all play for each other.’’
In the final minute of the third quarter, Young drove the lane and Pelle contested his shot, getting entangled and landing on Young’s foot.
Young, wearing goggles to protect his injured right eye, fell to the court holding his left ankle, writhing and pounding the floor with his hand. Young was helped off the court by three of his teammates and diagnosed with an ankle sprain, with X-rays negative and an MRI scheduled Thursday.
The Hawks led by seven entering the fourth quarter, but had Brandon Goodwin running the point instead of Young. The Knicks blew a late four-point lead as Bogdan Bogdanovic drilled a game-tying 3 with 6.2 seconds left to force OT, but nothing fazes these Knicks.
Gibson was lost in the second quarter when he was smacked in the eye during a battle for a rebound and suffered a lacerated eyelid. Noel joined him midway through the third quarter when Atlanta’s star center, Clint Capela (25 points, 22 rebounds), elbowed him in the mouth after blocking a shot. Noel crumpled to the court in agony, then left to join Gibson in the locker room.
Noel returned in the fourth quarter to a big hand from the Garden crowd and had a big block late in the fourth and OT, finishing with three rejections.
In the end, as Randle left the court, he had one last message for the screaming throng: “New York, we’re here!’’
This story originally appeared on: NyPost - Author:Marc Berman