New York Knicks fans have waited a long time to see their team return to the postseason and the fans in attendance at Madison Square Garden on Sunday evening were treated to an extremely competitive and entertaining contest against the Atlanta Hawks. After going back and forth for the majority of the second half, it was the Hawks that ultimately came out on tip with a 107-105 win in Game 1.
While the usual suspects came up big for the Hawks, Trae Young led all scorers with 32 points while Bogdan Bogdanovich chipped in 18 of his own, the Knicks received a standout performance from a surprising member of their roster as Alec Burks paced New York's offense with 27 points off of the bench, including 18 in the fourth quarter alone. In the end, though, Burks and the Knicks did not have enough firepower to keep pace with Young's Hawks as the All-Star guard silenced the chants from the Garden faithful with a game-winning floater with just under one second left in regulation.
There two teams will meet again on Wednesday night in Game 2 of their best-of-seven series. The opening tip is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET with TNT handling the broadcast.
Here are three key takeaways from the Hawks' big win:
1. Young shines in playoff debut
Trae Young finally got his first taste of the playoffs on Sunday night, but if you didn't know anything about his career, you would've assumed he was a 10-year veteran. He put up 32 points, seven rebounds and 10 assists, and hit the game-winning floater with 0.9 seconds remaining.
Right from the first few possessions of the game, it was clear the Knicks were going to have a problem keeping Young out of the lane. Over and over he used his quickness to dart into the lane and cause havoc, both with his scoring and playmaking, and it wasn't surprising that he scored the game winner with that same method.
The Knicks actually tried to send two players at him to get the ball out of his hands, but Young was able to get around Frank Ntilikina and drop a floater up and in over the defense.
With his big night, Young became just the fourth player in NBA history to record 30 points and 10 assists in their playoff debut, joining the elite company of Derrick Rose, LeBron James and Chris Paul. And while that would have been impressive no matter the setting, the fact that he did it in Madison Square Garden makes it even more special.
"When you're in the zone and everyone is saying F you... it got real quiet at the end," Young said. "For me, I wanted to hear those F you chants again."
2. Randle has miserable night
Julius Randle was tremendous for the Knicks this season, as he played the best basketball of his career to get them back to the playoffs for the first time since 2013. In particular, he destroyed the Hawks, averaging 37.3 points per game in their regular season meetings.
Unfortunately for him and the Knicks, their first postseason matchup didn't go the same way. Randle couldn't get anything going offensively, and ended up with 15 points, 12 rebounds and four assists on a woeful 6-for-23 from the field. He only had nine games all season with fewer points, and three games with a worse shooting percentage.
The fact that Randle struggled that much and the Knicks were still right there with a chance to win almost makes the loss more frustrating from their perspective. You have to assume he's going to play better moving forward, and if they could have stolen Game 1 without him at his best, it would have boded very well for their chances.
3. Knicks' bench keeps team in the game, but it's not enough
We already covered how poor Randle was, and RJ Barrett wasn't much better, going for 14 points and 11 rebounds on 6-of-15 from the field. With their two best players combining for 30 points on 12-of-38 shooting, it was a wonder the Knicks were even still in the game down the stretch.
The reason they had a chance to win is because Alec Burks, Derrick Rose and the entire bench stepped up in a major way. Burks dropped 18 points in the fourth quarter alone en route to a new playoff career-high of 27, while Rose chipped in 17 points, five rebounds and five assists. All told, the Knicks' bench more than doubled-up their Hawks counterparts, 64-31.
In truth, it's hard to imagine the Knicks' bench having a better game all series, but if they can get a consistent offensive boost from Burks and Rose, it will go a long way as they try to battle back from an early deficit.