The Atlanta Hawks were one of the best teams on their home court during the second half of the season. Now they’ll get to see if that advantage carries over to the postseason when they host the New York Knicks in Game 3 of their first-round playoff series on Friday.
The teams split the first two games at New York’s Madison Square Garden. Atlanta won 107-105 in the opener, but New York evened the series 101-92 on Wednesday.
The Hawks finished the season with the NBA’s longest active home winning streak of 11 games, the team’s longest stretch since the 2014-15 team won 12 straight. The Hawks are 19-2 in their last 21 home games.
“I hope Atlanta’s ready to bring that energy,” the Hawks’ Trae Young said. “I hope it’s loud. I hope everybody’s excited to have the playoffs back in the A. I’m ready to play back inside that arena and in front of those fans. So, it’s going to be fun.”
Young has thrust himself into the center of the storm. He scored the winning basket in the first game and held a finger to his lips to hush the New York fans. That transformed him into a lightning rod for the second game and made him the target of raucous verbal abuse. It didn’t matter; Young had 30 points in the second game after scoring 32 in the opener.
New York’s Derrick Rose said Young’s actions — and the reaction from Knicks fans — is typical of what playoff basketball is supposed to be like. It’s just been a while for both teams: Atlanta hasn’t made the playoffs since 2017, the Knicks since 2013.
“His reaction is supposed to be that way, and it’s supposed to amp up and bring the atmosphere and the environment to where it is right now. That’s what I’m used to,” Rose said.
Rose, who has playoff experience with Chicago and Minnesota, brought the sort of veteran presence expected since he was acquired in a trade with Detroit on Feb. 8. The Knicks went 24-11 after obtaining the veteran and earned the fourth seed in the NBA’s Eastern Conference.
Rose helped set the stage for victory in Game 2 by scoring 26 points and sparking a comeback from a 13-point second-half deficit.
It was also helpful that Julius Randle, voted the NBA’s Most Improved Player, bounced back to record 15 points and 12 rebounds. He scored 11 in the third quarter after going 0-for-6 from the field and scoring two points in the first half.
“Obviously, throughout the game there’s going to be frustrations,” Randle said. “But we know who we are as a team. We’re never going to doubt whether we can win a game or not.”
The Hawks seemed to settle for the quick outside shot in the second game. They took 44 3-point shots — they average only 33.5 — and scored just 28 points in the paint.
“I feel like it was a lot of settling on the perimeter as opposed to attacking,” Atlanta coach Nate McMillan said. “I don’t know if that was because our guys were a little tired or what, but we weren’t getting to the basket, playing in our third and fourth option.”
–Field Level Media