The Atlanta Hawks took control of their best-of-seven series against the New York Knicks on Friday night by coming away with a 105-94 win to take a 2-1 lead.
As he has been throughout the series, Trae Young was magnificent again for Atlanta as he finished the night with 21 points and a game-high 14 assists to lead the charge for the Hawks on the offensive end. On the other end of the spectrum, New York's All-Star, Julius Randle, struggled mightily, again, finishing with just 14 points while shooting 2-15 from the field. His ineffectiveness made Derrick Rose's performance, a game-high 30 points, less impactful than it otherwise would have been.
In the end, Young's play coupled with the Knicks' cold shooting night proved to be too much for New York to overcome. These two teams will meet again on Sunday in Game 4 with the opening tip scheduled for 1 p.m. ET on ABC. Before moving ahead to that game though, let's take a look at three key takeaways from Atlanta's Game 3 win.
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- Trae Young made some NBA history
Trae Young is an elite scorer, and he's also one of the NBA's better passers, and both of those skills have been on full display in the series against the Knicks. Young has been manufacturing his own offense while also setting up his teammates at a high level, and he made some league history as a result. With his production, Young became just the fifth player ever to average 25 points and 10 assists through his first 3 career playoff games. The other four? Perhaps you've heard of them: Kevin Johnson, Chris Paul, Stephen Curry and Oscar Robertson. Not bad company for Young, who has quickly proven that he's not afraid of the big stage. He also became just the sixth player ever to compile more than 30 assists in his first three playoff games. His passing in Game 3 was a thing of beauty as he consistently generated open opportunities for his teammates, both at the rim and beyond the arc.
Young is only in his third season, but he's quickly approaching being in the unguardable territory. His offensive game is extremely advanced, and he can basically do it all on that end -- shoot, drive, and dish. Unfortunately for the Knicks, they're learning that the hard way.
2. Another forgettable performance from Julius Randle
Julius Randle is the NBA's Most Improved Player, but you wouldn't know it from watching the series against the Hawks. Randle has struggled immensely against Atlanta's defense, and his inability to produce points is a huge part of the reason that the Knicks are down 2-1. In Game 3, Randle had his worst game of the series so far, which is saying something. He finished with a paltry 14 points on 2-for-15 shooting from the floor. He couldn't buy a bucket, and while he deserves some credit for staying aggressive despite his shooting struggles (he went 8-for-8 from the foul line and grabbed 11 rebounds), that alone just isn't enough.
The Knicks relied on Randle for point production all season and without it, in this series, they've been floundering on that end of the floor. Over the series, Randle is shooting just 24 percent from the floor -- a huge drop from the regular season when he shot 45 percent. Quite frankly, he needs to snap out of this funk moving forward, or the series will be over pretty quickly. Most of that falls on Randle's shoulders, but some of it also falls on coach Tom Thibodeau, who needs to figure out a way to help get Randle going, perhaps by trying to force and exploit mismatches, or use him as a roller in pick and roll scenarios so he gets some momentum going to the hoop. They have to try something because Randle looks lost out there.
3. Derrick Rose turns back the clock
If there was a silver lining for the Knicks in this one, it was the play of Derrick Rose. Rose was inserted into the starting lineup in place of Elfrid Payton, and he made the most of the opportunity. Rose played a team-high 39 minutes, and he led the Knicks with 30 points on 13-of-21 shooting from the floor. Randle was the second-highest scoring Knicks player with 14 points. Rose also added six rebounds and five assists.
It remains to be seen if he can maintain that level of production, and usage, but through three games he's been New York's best player, which is pretty impressive when you consider the arc of his career. If Rose had some help from Randle and R.J. Barrett in Game 3, the Knicks might have been able to pull out a win. But the fact that his teammates were unable to step up doesn't make Rose's production less impressive. Just make sure not to call his current level of play "vintage," he's not a fan of that.