new york knicks
Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

A successful season for the New York Knicks is ending with a whimper. Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks are sending the Knicks packing.

Danny Small

The New York Knicks came into the playoffs with a legitimate identity. They were a tough, rugged team that protected Madison Square Garden at all costs. At least, that’s who we thought they were. The Atlanta Hawks just waltzed into New York and laid an absolute beating on the Knicks.

This series was chippy from start to finish and oftentimes, the Knicks were the instigators. The Hawks punched the bully in the nose. As it turns out, Clint Capela was spot-on with his analysis of the Knicks’ physicality and toughness. Plus, he did come into MSG and send the Knicks on vacation.

Capela backed up his trash talk with 36 points, nine rebounds, and two blocks. But we all know Atlanta’s success starts and ends with Trae Young. The third-year guard looked built for this moment, thoroughly dominating while navigating physical play, trash talk, chippiness, and even an unfortunate spitting incident.

The cherry on top of his 36-point night came when the MSG crowd was giving a standing ovation to the Knicks when the writing was on the wall. As the crowd was appreciating the Knicks, Young buried a deep three and literally took a bow.

What else is there to say? Young is a primetime player who is going to live in the nightmares of Knicks fans for a few months.

Julius Randle, on the other hand, was nowhere to be found. Randle never looked comfortable at all against this Atlanta defense. The decision to use Capela as a strong-side rim protector threw Randle off his game. Tom Thibodeau‘s unwillingness to play Randle with Obi Toppin allowed the Hawks to keep Capela glued to that strong-side block.

But scheme adjustments may not have helped Randle much. He looked like a shell of the All-NBA player New Yorkers watched all season long. He couldn’t make decisions when the ball was in his hands and was lifeless on defense.

Randle used the entire 2019-20 season as motivation last summer and it paid off. This time around, it’s five games in the playoffs that will keep him going in the offseason.

There was more to this loss than Young outplaying Randle. RJ Barrett struggled to make shots, the centers were banged up, and Reggie Bullock was very hot and cold.

The Hawks were lights out from deep, disciplined defensively, and willing to do the dirty work to win. The Knicks were not any of those things.

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