new york knicks atlanta hawks
Mandatory Credit: Seth Wenig/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks drop Game 1 to the Atlanta Hawks despite big-time performances from Alec Burks and Derrick Rose off the bench.

The New York Knicks fell short in their first playoff game in eight years. A cold start and Trae Young dramatics in the fourth quarter were too much for the Knicks to overcome. The Hawks take a 1-0 series lead in front of a hostile crowd.

Julius Randle struggled all game long and RJ Barrett wasn’t much better. The bench picked up the slack, but this team isn’t going anywhere if Randle and Barrett continue to struggle.

Here are three highlights and three observations from New York’s 107-105 loss to Atlanta.

Highlight 1: Immanuel Quickley No Fear

Highlight 2: RJ Barrett Poster

Highlight 3: Ice Trae Young

Observation 1: Defense on Trae Young

The Knicks did a solid job on Trae Young through three quarters. He had 19 points on 9-for-20 shooting to go along with seven assists. Decent numbers for sure, but it was the fourth quarter when the Knicks really lost track of him.

Young was 9-for-9 from the free-throw line in that frame, including two massive free throws on a touch foul in the final seconds. He finished with 32 points, seven rebounds, 10 assists, and the biggest basket of the game, the winner over Randle.

Barrett hinted at the idea that the Knicks were going to force Young to be a shooter and not a passer following morning shootaround. Ten assists isn’t an ideal number when the Knicks are trying to take that aspect of his game away from him.

Something will need to change in Game 2 with how the Knicks defend Young.

Observation 2: Bench Mob Dominates

The bench has been one of the best things about the Knicks this season and that continued in the playoffs. After an ice-cold start, the trio of Derrick Rose, Alec Burks, and Immanuel Quickley gave the Knicks a major lift.

Those three combined for 54 of the Knicks’ 105 points. Even Taj Gibson and Obi Toppin provided some much-needed minutes off the bench.

This is a great sign for the Knicks, but they need their two stars — Randle and Barrett — to be much better in this series to have any chance of winning four games before the Hawks do.

Generally speaking, bench guys play much better at home in the playoffs and it can be hit or miss on the road. That puts even more pressure on Randle and Barrett now that the Knicks have essentially lost home-court advantage.

Observation 3: Where is Julius Randle?

Speaking of Randle, he was dreadful in this one. Young showed up for Atlanta and Randle didn’t for New York. The margins between these two teams were razor thin and a few more buckets from Randle would have put the Knicks over the top.

The All-Star and likely All-NBA selection connected on six of his 23 field-goal attempts. We have seen him struggle in games only to find his rhythm in the clutch moments. That wasn’t the case in Game 1.

The onus isn’t solely on Randle for this Game 1 loss. Barrett was just 6-for-15 from the field and 1-for-6 from deep. It’s going to be tough for any team to win a playoff game when its top two players combine to shoot 12-for-38 from the floor.

“I’m not making no excuses. I have to be better and I will be better,” Randle told reporters after the game.

The good news is that Randle and Barrett were non-factors and the Knicks only lost by two measly points. This series is far from over.

NY/NJ hoops reporter (NBA/NCAA) & sports betting writer for XL Media. Never had the makings of a varsity athlete.