A Wrenching Knicks Loss, but an Electric Night at the Garden

For 47 minutes 59.1 seconds, the followers at Madison Square Garden ranged from raucous to delirious, as the Knicks — their Knicks — have been locked in a dogfight on Sunday night time towards the Atlanta Hawks in the New York crew’s first N.B.A. playoff sport since 2013.

And with nine-10ths of a second remaining, Trae Young, the Hawks’ star guard, was in a position to get round Frank Ntilikina, a guard ostensibly recognized for his protection, and hit a game-winning floater.

Young then added insult to damage by utilizing his finger to shush the crowd, a great portion of which had been sending profane chants his method for a lot of the sport, a 107-105 Hawks win.

"Next one."🤫🤫

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— Atlanta Hawks (@ATLHawks) May 24, 2021

“I’ve always looked at it as I’m doing something right if I’m offending them with my play that much,” Young informed reporters after the sport, including, “Just got to let my play do the talking because at the end of the day, fans can only talk. They can’t guard me.”

Neither might the Knicks in Game 1 of this best-of-seven first-round collection. An unfazed Young took the air of the constructing repeatedly as he took over in the fourth quarter. It wasn’t simply the sport winner. It was the two free throws with 28 seconds left. Another floater with lower than two minutes left, plus a free throw. Young scored 13 of his 32 factors in the fourth quarter, deftly casting apart the howling dwelling followers and the haymakers the Knicks stored throwing the Hawks’ method in a back-and-forth thriller. All 9 of Young’s free throws got here in the last quarter, as did three of his 10 assists.

The Knicks tried valiantly to maintain Young contained in pick-and-rolls. It didn’t work, as Young used his finest weapon — the floater — to frustrate a lot taller facilities.

“He’s a great player,” Tom Thibodeau, the Knicks’ coach, mentioned. “We’ll take a look at the film. You’re not going to be able to stay with a steady diet of anything, so obviously we have to do a better job.”

Gathering outdoors Madison Square Garden earlier than the sport.Credit…Sara Naomi Lewkowicz for The New York OccasionsOn their ft inside close to the finish of the sport.Credit…Pool picture by Seth Wenig

Sunday’s sport had all the hallmarks of the basic Knicks playoff video games N.B.A. audiences have been accustomed to in the 1990s. (Before tipoff, Thibodeau, who was an assistant coach for the Knicks then, recalled that he had by no means heard a constructing as loud as Madison Square Garden when Larry Johnson hit a game-tying Three towards the Indiana Pacers in Game Three of the 1999 Eastern Conference finals — one among the most well-known photographs in Knicks historical past.)

Game 1 was low scoring and defensively oriented, very like the premillennium Knicks. Angry followers chanted profanities at an opposing crew’s finest participant (and the referees). Those identical ones screamed so loudly that the public-address announcer couldn’t be heard after RJ Barrett’s fast-break dunk over Bogdan Bogdanovic in the third quarter despatched the crowd of 15,047 right into a frenzy.

An exuberant Spike Lee berated the referees and embraced Knicks gamers from the sideline. Other celebrities, like Tracy Morgan, Jon Stewart and Rachel Brosnahan, sat courtside to help in efforts to rattle the Hawks. Christopher Jackson, the Broadway star, sang the nationwide anthem. David Guetta, the French D.J., carried out at halftime.

The playoff opener was a reminder that at its finest, the Knicks basketball expertise is as a lot a cultural occasion in New York as it’s a basketball one. (To that finish, Andrew Yang, one among the main candidates for mayor of New York City, posted a video of himself on Twitter shaking palms with attendees outdoors the area earlier than the sport. He had apparently gotten over his earlier disavowal of the franchise, which had additionally been accomplished on Twitter.)

The contest had all the pieces Knicks followers might need aside from a win. But this was the type of sport that had some important outliers, making it troublesome to challenge the remainder of the collection. For one factor, whereas Young, an All-Star, got here by way of for the Hawks, the Knicks’ All-Star didn’t. Julius Randle, going through a gentle rush of double groups, shot 6 for 23 from the area for 15 factors. He dominated the Hawks throughout the common season, but couldn’t get his jumpers to fall on Sunday.

“Listen, I’m not making no excuses,” Randle mentioned. “I’ve got to be better, and I will be better. I’ll just leave it at that.”

As an entire, the Knicks have been one among the most correct Three-point-shooting groups in the N.B.A. On Sunday, they have been 10 for 30 from deep — 33 p.c, far under their season common of 39 p.c.

The Knicks stayed in the sport principally due to the play of the reserves, significantly Alec Burks, who led the crew with 27 factors off the bench. Derrick Rose had 17 factors and Immanuel Quickley added 10, together with two momentum shifting 3s.

Immanuel Quickley celebrated after hitting a Three-pointer in the first-half.Credit…Pool picture by Seth Wenig

A slight bounce right here or a pleasant foul name that doesn’t go Young’s method, and this dialogue is method completely different. It could be about the Knicks returning to playoff glory and the giant variety of metropolis residents who abruptly needed to — wink, wink — name out sick on Monday. It could be about how the Knicks beat the Hawks regardless of their finest gamers not enjoying effectively, and the way effectively that bodes in a collection wherein the Knicks have home-court benefit.

But the Hawks pulled it out. And they’re one sport nearer to a collection win than the Knicks are.

But there’s loads of motive for optimism for the Knicks heading into Game 2 on Wednesday night time at the Garden. Randle confirmed himself to be too good a participant this season, significantly towards Atlanta, to have a repeat of Sunday’s sport. By the regulation of averages, extra of these 3s the Knicks missed will begin getting into. The supporting solid confirmed it was able to taking a few of the load off Randle. And the crew was 25-11 at dwelling in the common season.

The unsolvable difficulty could also be Young, one among the few gamers who can damage a crew from anyplace on the courtroom. When the Knicks performed up on him, he drove round them. When they gave him room to function, he obtained off his floater or discovered Hawks teammates for dunks. The reply could also be to pack the paint and encourage him to shoot extra from Three-point vary, the place he was a 34.Three p.c shooter throughout the common season, or to ship extra traps at him to drive the ball out of his palms.

Even although Ntilikina was burned on Young’s sport winner, he might get extra time if Young continues to abuse the guards who had problem with him, like the beginning guard Elfrid Payton, who continued to be ineffective.

The one fixed for Game 2 is that Knicks followers will probably be out in drive. Lee will probably be there screaming, and hundreds of others will match him be aware for be aware. As Rose mentioned about the opener, the followers gave the crew “everything that we expected and probably a little bit more.”