Derrick Rose, Knicks Rally Past Trae Young, Hawks in Game 2 to Even SeriesMay 27, 2021
For the first time since 2013, the New York Knicks have won a postseason game, and Madison Square Garden celebrated accordingly.
A 101-92 victory over the Atlanta Hawks in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals knotted the first-round series at 1-1 and sent the crowd of 15,000—the largest in the NBA this season—into a frenzy.
It's the first home playoff win for New York since the Knicks beat the Indiana Pacers in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals in 2013. Sandwiched between those wins were seven consecutive losing seasons, seven head coaches and numerous whiffs in free agency.
That all became part of the past Wednesday as the league's Most Improved Player, Julius Randle, notched 15 points and 12 rebounds to help New York earn the win.
Julius Randle, PF, New York Knicks: 15 points, 12 rebounds, 4 assists
Derrick Rose, PG, New York Knicks: 26 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists
Trae Young, PG, Atlanta Hawks: 30 points, 7 assists
Bogdan Bogdanovic, SG, Atlanta Hawks: 18 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks
Rose Sparks Knicks' Second-Half Surge
From the looks of the first half, the Knicks didn't have any chance battling with the Hawks through a best-of-seven series let alone a single game. Randle went 0-of-6 with just two points while New York watched shot after shot clank off the rim.
At the same time, Trae Young went off for 20 points in the first half as Atlanta took a 57-44 lead into the break.
That's when Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau decided to scrap his original gameplan and try something different. The first-year Knicks coach benched starters Elfrid Payton and Nerlens Noel to start the third quarter and instead went with two players who were mainstays of his rotation nearly a decade ago with the Chicago Bulls: Derrick Rose and Taj Gibson.
Speaking to the TNT broadcast after the win, Rose said Thibodeau stood up in the locker room and announced he was starting the second half in front of the whole team. That changed the energy in the locker room, which quickly spread to the fans in the building.
The move began to pan-out immediately. Rose immediately found Randle alone for a three-pointer to open the half, ensuring the team's MVP wouldn't stay cold from the field any longer, then the guard sliced through the Hawks defense for an easy look at the rim before drilling a three-pointer of his own.
This wasn't Rose throwing his game back to his MVP season in 2011, it was Rose trusting his teammates and playing within himself to spread Atlanta's defense thin.
"Proper preparation prevents poor performance," Rose told TNT. "And I'm always making sure I'm prepared."
Based on the way he sparked the Knicks in Game 2, he may want to prepare for a larger role in Game 3. If Thibodeau decides to continue with Rose as his primary point guard, it'll be the first time Rose has started a postseason game since the Eastern Conference Semifinals in 2015.
Hawks' Offense Grounded In Game 2
The Knicks had the NBA's best scoring defense during the regular season (104.7 points allowed per game), so it's no surprise to see New York lock down shooters again in the postseason. Especially at home.
What was surprising was the Hawks' inability to adjust after having a chance to put the Knicks down big in the first half. Atlanta opened up a 15-point lead against a notably poor-shooting Knicks team only to watch Thibodeau out-coach the Hawks' Nate McMillan.
That was despite Trae Young becoming the first player since Reggie Miller with multiple 30-point playoff games at Madison Square Garden.
The Hawks shot 36.9 percent from the field, made just 12-of-44 three-pointers and were out-rebounded 54-41.
Losing one of those categories is bad enough. Losing all three is a recipe for a guaranteed loss.
The Hawks shot nearly 10 percentage points better in Game 1 and won't be able to hang with New York if they can't average above 40 percent from the field in any game.
Atlanta has proven time and again it has the tools to succeed in the East. But it can't withstand 2-of-13 outings behind the arc from Bogdanovic or six points in 30 minutes from Danilo Gallinari.
Thibodeau showed he was willing to alter his lineup in order to spark his team. It may be time for McMillan to show he can do the same.
Game 3 is slated for Friday at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN.
This article will be updated to provide more information on this story as it becomes available.
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