Knicks’ season on the brink after disastrous Game 4 loss to Hawks

The Knicks' fairytale season is nearly over.

ATLANTA — The Knicks fairytale season is nearly over.

Tom Thibodeau’s Knicks were a terrific-regular season team, but their flaws have been revealed during this depressing first-round series against the Hawks.

Julius Randle was a little better and RJ Barrett was a lot better, but neither were nearly enough to stifle Atlanta’s weaponry as the Hawks have put the Knicks on the brink with Sunday’s 113-96 victory before 16,458 at raucous State Farm Arena.

The Knicks are in a 3-1 hole in the best-of-seven series and have never come back from that deficit in their history. Just 13 teams in 260 instances have ever recovered from a 3-1 deficit.

Game 5 is back at the Garden Wednesday. In the fourth quarter, the Atlanta fans started chanting “Hawks in Five” as they got up by 23 points.

“It was a hard-fought first and second quarter,” Thibodeau said. “The third quarter we got back on our heels, The rebounding was a problem from the start. We got to fix it. We got to fix it fast.”

Shooting 24 percent entering the afternoon, Randle scored his playoff-high 23 points and added seven assists and 10 rebounds but shot just 7-for-19 and committed five turnovers. He was on the receiving end of “overrated” chants all game.

“I like our chances,” Randle said. “To answer your question, I love our chances. It’s not over. It’s not nearly over.”

In the final minutes, Randle committed a dirty foul on Danilo Gallinari, shoving him after the whistle, picking up a flagrant. It was in retaliation to Gallinari’s hitting Bullock in the neck previously.

“This is the playoffs,” Thibodeau said. “So there’s intensity to it. I don’t know if frustration is the right word. Maybe disappointment, but there’s resiliency to this team. We have to fight back and we will.”

Julius Randle (l.) and Tom Thibodeau (r.) during the Knicks’ Game 4 loss to the Hawks on May 30, 2021.
Corey Sipkin (2)

Barrett added 21 points in a good outing. and Derrick Rose was there again with 18 points, though 10 points came in the first eight minutes.

But they had nothing else. They couldn’t get anything from scoreless Reggie Bullock (0-for-4, three missed 3-pointers) or enough consistency from Alec Burks (4-for-12).

Atlanta ripped of a 15-5 run to start the second half to take a 68-54 lead. Trae Young (27 points, nine assists) started the surge with a 3-pointer and a floater. John Collins finished with a tough, contested foul-line jumper over Randle, then an open 3-pointer. They led 88-71 after three quarters on a Bogdan Bogdanovic 3-pointer. Six Hawks finished in double figures in scoring.

The Knicks were going toe-to-toe with the Hawks, leading by five points in the second quarter. But one shoddy sequence cost them momentum. Randle missed a short jumper, springing Young on a fast break as the flashy point guard lifted an alley-oop pass to John Collins for a monstrous slam.

Randle turned it over and Bogdanovic came down and drilled a 3 to give the Hawks their biggest lead of the half at 51-44 with 2:20 left. The Hawks led 53-49 at intermission.

Randle put up 12 first-half points, shooting just 4-for-12, but looked more like himself in his decision-making. Barrett racked up seven points after one quarter — his total in Game 3. Barrett sprinkled in a power drive, a 3-pointer and two free throws off another strong foray to the basket. The Knicks led 26-25 after one.

It was also a potent point-guard battle in the half with Rose outscoring Young 16-15.

New starting center Taj Gibson expected the Knicks to bounce back with a vengeance — like they’ve done all season.

“When you’re playing for the Knicks for this playoff run, it kind of already got us a little mentally ready,’’ Gibson said before the game. “Because when you play in New York City throughout the year, you’re constantly getting criticized, ridiculed, and that prepares you. That’s why our team is so close-knit. So we’re so ready to bounce back. That’s our mentality.”

But it didn’t happen.

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

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