At the start of Game Two at Madison Square Garden, it appeared that Tom Thibodeau had successfully created the ideal setting. A medley of 16,254 fans yelling for a sign of life and a defensive intensity not seen since the days of Pat Riley and Jeff Van Gundy emerging from a forgotten locker.
The Knicks’ anxiety of losing two consecutive games at home combined with their animosity toward Hawks standout player Trae Young to create an atmosphere of intense competition.
Rose will Now be Able to Drink For Free Forever.
Despite the intense competition, Young maintained control of the game for the first half, scoring at will, setting up his teammates for easy shots, and calming the fans. While enthusiasm may have been waning, desperation was not.
Even Julius Randle was having trouble scoring, so Thibodeau decided to try something different and put Derrick Rose and Taj Gibson in the starting lineup to try and energise his struggling team for the second half.
In New York City, Rose will now be able to drink for free forever. Rose played the whole third quarter, scoring a team-high 26 points in an arduous 39 minutes as the Knicks beat the Hawks 101-92 to even the series at one game apiece, harking back to his days as a dominant force before knee issues derailed his career. It was the first playoff win for the Knicks since May 16, 2013.
At the last game, we just weren’t clicking the way we should have been. To quote Rose: That’s how I felt going in, and I was aiming to play as hard as I could and lead by example for my teammates.
Last game, I felt that my performance was lacklustre. After all we went through in the game, to come back and play like that, to come back and get the lead, to win, shows fight. Big plays were made by a lot of people.
Until now, Thibodeau has refused to change his starting lineup, and even tonight, he didn’t do it until the second half. Elfrid Payton was afterwards seated, and Gibson was substituted for Nerlens Noel. Overnight, a 13-point halftime deficit vanished like magic.
Randle made his first field goal of the game, a 3-pointer, just seconds into the second half. With 1:45 remaining in the third, he made a fadeaway jumper to give the Knicks their first lead since the game’s opening minutes, and they carried that one-point advantage into the fourth.
The team “felt flat and needed a shock of energy,” Thibodeau explained. Thus, we sought novelty. We started on defence and then started passing the ball around, spraying it around, getting open shots, and making them.
Our bench got some excellent minutes in after we got out to a sluggish start, but we sputtered to a slow end to the second quarter. Plus, I felt like switching things up a bit. I felt like we needed to try something new, so I built this bench for you. Those new guys stepped up and sounded fantastic.
The audience was in a frenzy once they took the lead, and the vulgar chants directed against Young died down as the fans celebrated a return to the level of play that had led to the team’s stunning regular season run to the fourth seed.
After Rose and Gibson got things going, Randle woke up, and the rookies Obi Toppin and Immanuel Quickley took over at the beginning of the fourth. Toppin’s fast-break slam dunk off of Alec Burks’s long lob brought the audience to its feet.
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With 8:34 remaining and the Hawks down 88-78, coach Nate McMillan decided to sit Young on the bench to rest him. Thibodeau reinserted Rose and Gibson after the Hawks had trimmed the advantage to five points.
Then, after an offensive foul was called on Toppin, Young scored a floater in the lane to cut the margin to 88-85, and Randle came back into the game as well. Young passed to Clint Capela for a basket, cutting the deficit to two points. On the other hand, Reggie Bullock made a three-pointer after an offensive rebound by Gibson.