The Atlanta Hawks versus the New York Knicks turned out to be one of the biggest surprises in the first round of the playoffs. Most people picked the Knicks to win this series, some even believed the Hawks did not have a real chance despite having identical records. Yet despite all the doubters and playing without homecourt advantage, the Hawks pulled off the upset.
Atlanta Hawks versus the New York Knicks NBA Playoffs Recap
All Aboard the Trae Train
Trae Young did not make the all-star team this season. He probably will not be on any of the three All-NBA teams either. Despite all of the disrespect he has garnered over his spectacular season, Young showed up when it mattered most. The Knicks were the third-best defense in the league this season and “Ice Trae” still torched them. He averaged 29 points and 10 assists on 57 true shooting percent including three 30 point games at Madison Square Garden.
Players with at least 145 points and 45 assists in their first 5 playoff games combined:
— Stathead (@Stathead) June 3, 2021
After this series, Young will surely be a New York villain for years to come.
Did the Knicks Underachieve?
The short answer is, no. The Knicks making the playoffs at all was a massive success, even if fans are disappointed at this first-round result. People who expected the Knicks to win, were just not watching the Hawks this year. Yes, the Knicks defense has been good all year and it was good overall against Atlanta. The Hawks only managed an offensive rating of 111.8 against New York. A far cry from their 115.7 regular-season mark. The Knicks couldn’t stop Young but they did enough on that end. The real issue is the offense.
During the regular season the Knicks were not a good offensive team, so matching up with a well rounded team like the Hawks with an elite paint protector in Clint Capela was going to bring some challenges. The Knicks managed to shoot a putrid 39 percent from the field and 34 from three-point range. Their effective field goal percent dropped from 52 to 46. That’s just not enough offense to beat any good team, especially one with an offensive engine like Young.
However, there is one very distinct reason as to why the Knicks offense fell off so much come playoff time.
Where is Julius Randle?
Julius Randle was arguably the most popular athlete in New York City just two weeks ago. But after having one of the worst playoff series’ from an all-star anyone has ever seen, I’m not so sure. After a spectacular regular season that had Randle averaging 24-10 and six assists on 45-41-81 splits, his expectations were sky-high. To say he disappointed would be a vast understatement. On the surface, his box score numbers don’t look terrible since he averaged 18 points, 11 rebounds and four assists. Those are decent numbers even if they are a drop off from his regular-season standards.
The issue is his efficiency. Since the invention of the shot clock in 1954, only one player has ever taken at least 18 field goal attempts per game while shooting below 30 percent from the field and his name is Randle. Oh how the mighty have fallen. Randle was almost all of the Knicks offense during the regular season, so it is no surprise that they fell off when Randle couldn’t get it going. Playoff jitters are no joke.
Is This the End of the Road for Atlanta?
This question largely depends on the health of one man; Joel Embiid. If Embiid is good to go for most of the second round, the Hawks will be going home sooner than later. On the other hand, if his meniscus tear keeps him out for three or more games, we could be looking at the Hawks back in the conference finals for just the second time since they moved to Atlanta.
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