Knicks can’t afford to be ‘too relaxed’ on Trae Young in Game 2

Knicks point guard Derrick Rose said Atlanta’s Game 1 hero needs to feel the Knicks’ defense a lot more than he did in Game 1.

The frenzied, chanting Garden crowd of 15,000 can put some pressure on Hawks point guard Trae Young Wednesday night – but they can’t do it all.

Knicks point guard Derrick Rose said Atlanta’s Game 1 hero needs to feel the Knicks’ defense a lot more than he did in Game 1, when he erupted for 32 points and was 9 of 9 from the free-throw line (all attempts coming in the fourth quarter).

Despite the manic environment created by the Garden’s fans, Rose said the Knicks were “too relaxed” on Young.

“Well, I can say we played too relaxed,” Rose said following Wednesday’s morning shootaround. “Tonight we’re just going to play our normal way of playing. Aggressive and playing smart. He’s a smart player. He knows how to use angles. We just got to make sure we stay into the ball and make things harder for him. Last game we didn’t do that.”

Knicks guard Derrick Rose (r.) defends Hawks guard Trae Young in Game 1 of the 2021 NBA Playoffs first round on May 23, 2021.
NBAE via Getty Images

Young hit the game-winner with .9 seconds remaining and was a major factor throughout. And then, Young started drawing fouls in the final period.

Rose said the lack of ball pressure made Young’s night one to remember for Hawks fans. The profane Garden Trae chants did nothing to shake him in his playoff debut.

“If you look on the film, we weren’t into the ball,” Rose said. “We kind of let him go and dictate the game. We got to make sure – he didn’t turn his back one time. We got to make sure that we play a little bit harder.”

Don’t expect Young to live in the lane with his famed floater Wednesday – if the Knicks make the right adjustments.

“Yeah, last game it was just try to live with the floater,” Rose admitted. “He was making great decisions with the ball. Guarding any player like that, it’s going to be hard guarding smart players, his IQ for the game is through the roof. His teammates all trust him to make plays and give them the ball at certain times.

“Last game, as a point guard, he didn’t turn his back one time. They put numerous people on me and I had turned my back numerous times, which shows the pressure between both teams. He has to feel our presence. We got to make it harder.”

Trae Young (l.) drives against Derrick Rose (r.) during Game 1 of the Knicks-Hawks series on May 23, 2021.
Getty Images

Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau didn’t commit to Elfrid Payton on Tuesday and hasn’t yet revealed his starting point guard, but he clearly was not happy with Payton’s ball pressure at the outset, pulling him after four minutes.

The slumping Payton had been a good, physical defender with quick hands, and whether he deserves another crack at Young remains to be seen. He got only eight minutes on Young in Game 1.

Frank Ntilikina, who got beat on the game’s final play, could be a candidate to start. He has not been made available for comment this week.

So could swingman Alec Burks, who has played his fair share of point-guard, but that move would be reeking of desperation. Or Thibodeau can just go with Rose and break up the bench.

Payton was weaving a solid season until mid-April. Scouts believe he’s lacking in confidence because his minutes keep getting reduced, and it’s showing in bad body language.

“It’s tough to play under those conditions,” one scout said, referring to Payton’s role.

This story originally appeared on: NyPost - Author:Marc Berman

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