2021 NBA Playoffs Game Thread: Knicks vs Hawks, Game 1…of the Playoffs. Meaning the Knicks are in the Playoffs.

The Knicks host the Atlanta Hawks as they play in a playoff game for the first time in eight years (interestingly, also the last time that they hosted the first game of a playoff series).

One of the concerns about the Knicks was every game being played like Game 7 and the team possibly being worn down and then the NBA…decided to give the playoff teams all a week off. Thanks, NBA!

So the Knicks are well-rested, you know Thibs has been game-planning this for a week, the crowd is going to be deafening in support of the Knicks. Everything is set for the Knicks taking it right to the Hawks starting in Game 1. Remember, the Knicks swept the Hawks in the regular season. Granted, the Hawks were rarely healthy in those matchups and now they’ll have some healthier guys shooting threes, but let’s hope that that doesn’t matter.

It all comes down to the Knicks just taking care of business on their home court.

Let’s go, win Game 1, Knicks!

Oh, I almost forgot, as part of our all-poll content, here you go…

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

Knicks vs. Hawks Playoffs Preview

It’s been so long since we’ve done a Knicks playoff preview that I am unsure how to actually do one. So let me do it as a matchups sort of deal.


The Hawks’ star player is Trae Young, a talented scorer and disher who will forever be known as the guy that the Hawks foolishly thought was better than Luke Doncic. Still, he’s an excellent player in general, although you would have to believe that his strategy of flopping his way to foul calls will not work as well during the postseason. However, at the same time, he lost out on an All-Star spot to Jaylen Brown playing with half a lung, so how good is he really? Lou Williams backs him up and that’s like having Elfrid Payton playing point guard for you. Not a good idea. Derrick Rose, meanwhile, is a finalist for Sixth Man of the Year. Is Trae Young a finalist for any award? Nope, so I think it is clear that this one is Advantage: Knicks


The Hawks got a boost when they received Bogdan Bogdanovic back from a major injury earlier in the year. That guy shoots a ton of threes and makes a lot of them. Deandre Hunter has played well and he’s been a strong defender (and it’s really weird looking at the Pelicans and thinking, “Huh, wouldn’t Deandre Hunter make a lot more sense for them than Jaxson Hayes and Nickeil Alexander-Walker?” What an odd trade for them that was). Lou Williams is basically the ghost of Lou Williams at this point, but that’s still relatively not awful. Kevin Huerter is a nice glue guy who is somehow the #2 guy on the team in minutes per game and Tony Snell somehow has hit 56% of his threes this year. The Knicks, on the other hand, have the steady combination of RJ Barrett and Reggie Bullock as their wings, with Bullock’s strong defense and excellent outside shooting leading to him likely finally cashing in on his career (he’s literally made the same amount in his career as Frank Ntilikina, which is insane). Alec Burks plays the Lou Williams role on this team, only he does it better than Lou Williams at this point in their respective careers and Immanuel Quickley can obviously light it up when need be. Cam Reddish will miss the series, which almost tipped this thing in the Hawks’ favor, but it’s still Advantage: Knicks


John Collins is a good player. Not a good defender, but he’s a good player overall. Danilo Gallinari is a fine stretch four who can really help the Hawks soar when they have one of their crazy “Everyone shooting three pointers” lineups out there. Julius Randle, though, is quite possibly an All-NBA player this year. And since he’s been playing 57 minutes per game, he is better used to playing more minutes in the playoffs (at least I hope that that math checks out). Advantage: Knicks


Clint Capela is a lot to deal with, but at the same time, he was traded so that the Rockets could start a 5 foot 3 guy at center, so how good can he really be? Nerlens Noel, meanwhile, has little twigs for fingers and yet can block shots like crazy and Taj Gibson apparently shoots himself up with the blood of the younger Knicks (this is why Kevin Knox, Theo Pinson and Jared Harper don’t play much. Too much blood loss) and is playing like he’s 27 again. This is actually the tightest category, I think, but still…. Advantage: Knicks


Nate McMillan whines and believes that the NBA is having the Knicks and Hawks play on Sunday to…benefit the Knicks, somehow? Tom Thibodeau, though, does things just to make sure that appeals to authority can still be invoked, so that’s a win for Thibs. Thibs, also, is a finalist for Coach of the Year and McMillan isn’t even the official coach of the Hawks, so how good can he be? Advantage: Knicks

When you add in the advantage of the roaring crowds at MSG, I pick the Knicks to win this one in three games (four if three games is mathematically impossible).

Also, as part of our all-poll content (I think we all know that the move to all-poll content here was why the Knicks became so good this season)…

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

Knicks 2020-21 Regular Season Report Cards

We have time to kill, so let me quickly grade the Knicks regular season efforts and you can all chime in with your own grades.

Here’s the big rule – A is the highest grade you can get. I hate that, like, “A” “A+” and “A++++” or whatever. This is like the NBA max. Once you get it, you get it. We all know some As are better than other As, but they’re still an A, so just be happy with it.

Julius Randle – A

I mean, duh. The dude might even make the All-NBA team. Kind of a no-brainer.

Reggie Bullock – A

The fascinating thing about Reggie Bullock is that there is a very good chance that he’s only still on the team because they gave him a big 1+1 contract on the first day of free agency without checking to make sure he was, you know, healthy, and he felt so bad after he failed his physical that he signed for the room exception for a two year deal, so after a terrible injury-plagued first year, he was so cheap in year two that they had to keep him (as why would you pass on a guy making so little money?) and he then turned out to be precisely the player that they were hoping they were getting the other year, only better. Great defense and big-time shooting, Bullock has made himself a lot of money this season.

Derrick Rose – A

It’s funny, I was actually very much pro Derrick Rose being an asset for a playoff team. His performance last year was encouraging enough that I really thought he would be useful as a Lou Williams-type player for a top four playoff team. However, I was thinking more obvious playoff teams like the Clippers, and thus I didn’t see Rose fitting in with a team that looked on the periphery of the playoff scene. Well, as it turned out, Rose has been a big addition to a top four playoff team, it just turned out to be the Knicks! He’s played his best ball in almost a decade and also has made himself a lot of money this season.

Alec Burks – A

We were all shocked that no playoff team was willing to give Burks a multi-year deal for more than he got for one year from the Knicks because he just had a good year last season and played for a playoff team (after a trade deadline deal from the tanking Warriors to the pre-Morey, middle of the playoff pack Sixers). Burks has been instant offense and when the rest of the team sometimes falls into a funk, Burks has been there to bail them out. He has also made himself a lot of money this season.

Nerlens Noel – A

Ever since foolishly turning down a big money extension early in his career, this former lottery pick has been forced to scrounge around for short-term, low-level contracts. He signed with the Knicks in the hopes of building up his resume as the starter and found out that he wasn’t going to even be the starter, which pissed him off enough that he fired his agent (amusingly, the actual starter, Mitchell Robinson, also fired that same agent for bringing Noel here in the first place). But then Mitchell Robinson got hurt and Noel stepped into the starting role and was excellent. His ability to approximate Mitchell Robinson’s skills has been invaluable. He’s also made himself a lot of money this season.

Taj Gibson – A

When Mitchell Robinson’s injury forced Noel to move into the starting lineup, the Knicks needed a new backup center and somehow, no team had even bothered to pay the minimum to bring Taj Gibson in and so he stepped up and has played inspired basketball for the Knicks, even moving to the closeout part of the game over Noel at times due to his stronger offensive skills. If he were a lot younger, he would have made himself a lot of money this season, as well, and now that I think about it, is it possible that he has made himself a little more money? Might a team be willing to give him, like, $4 million next season? I assume he’ll be a Knick no matter what (anyone know what the Early Bird rules are if a player plays for a team in back-to-back season, but not really concurrently. I think since he didn’t play for any other team, it still counts as two seasons for Early Bird rights, so the Knicks might be able to offer him a nice small raise to keep him going over the cap).

Immanuel Quickley – A

When you can arguably get the best performance from an NBA rookie with the #25 pick, you have to be happy with that. Quickley has shown some bad rookie habits that have led to Thibs to basically give him an incredibly short leash, where basically it’s like he has a heat check each game. “Is he on today? Okay, he’ll play big minutes.” “Is he off today? Okay, he’ll be benched most of the game.” But for a rookie to be at that level is still very, very impressive. A huge part of the team’s future.

RJ Barrett – A

I really didn’t want to give RJ an A, but then I thought, whatever, an A or a B+ is basically the same thing, let’s just be happy and give him the A. RJ has successfully transformed his game in his second season and will likely transform it again in his third season and become a superstar. His defense has been excellent and you have to love how clutch he’s been in big games this season. He just needs to also make some shots at the start of the game, as well.

Mitchell Robinson – Prorated A

Mitch is weird. I don’t feel right giving him an overall A when he’s missed half the season, but he also did play half the season, so an incomplete sounds wrong, so I’ll just grade him on how he played in the half of the season that he played, which was excellent. He was basically Nerlens Noel, but better, and Nerlens Noel has been excellent. If they could find a way to keep the two-headed monster of Mitch and Noel, that’d be amazing.

Obi Toppin – C+

He didn’t have a good rookie season, but he has played a lot better recently. I don’t think he really has a future here, but I think he could have a future in the NBA period, which I wasn’t sure about early in the season.

Frank Ntilkina – Prorated C+

His numbers are the best they’ve ever been, which isn’t that great, and he never plays (120 less minutes played than Austin Rivers, who hasn’t played on the team in months), but I dunno, he’s had some good moments when he’s played, so…yay? And hey, maybe he’ll be the Knicks starter in the playoffs. Who knows.

Elfrid Payton – D+

I mean, he had some good games, right? He’s obviously being asked to play a certain type of way that isn’t the way he normally plays, so that’s going to take a toll on him a bit as a player, but whatever, he’s still been bad.

Kevin Knox – D

He’s just a waste of a roster spot at this point. And that’s with him making a lot of strides in some areas, but like Toppin, a lot of those numbers are from games where they can’t even keep him on the court, so it’s kind of like fool’s gold.

Everyone else is an incomplete. Except Luca Vildoza, who gets an A just because.

Tom Thibodeau – A

The fact that the Knicks have a top three defense (they moved just sliiiiiiiiiightly ahead of the Jazz in the last game, so it’s really like a tie for third) honestly doesn’t shock me. I’ve seen coaches like Thibs do this all the time. Getting teams to play defense is one of the areas where I firmly believe that coaches make a huge difference. It’s why I picked the Knicks to win 31 games, as I thought Thibs would make them a good defensive team and good defense in the NBA is like three-point shooting in college basketball, it keeps you in games you wouldn’t normally stay in. So that part didn’t surprise me (here’s some past examples. Phoenix Suns defense a year before Scott Skiles took over – 19th. Skiles’ first season there – 3rd. The Bulls went from 21st in defense a year before Skiles got there to 16th when he took over as interim coach the next season to 2nd in his first full season there. Milwaukee wasn’t as dramatic, but it was still literally last in defense the year before he got there to 15th in his first year to second in his third year). In other words, the top defensive coaches have historically done this sort of thing. It’s not shocking. What is more shocking to me is that Thibs has managed to cobble together a functioning offense here. Not a good offense, but good enough to compete, but really, moreover, it’s the fact that he coaches every game like it is Game 7 and that has affected his players, as well. They choke away leads like every NBA team does, but unlike those other NBA teams (and every Knicks team we’ve been watching for years except for the 2012-13 team that now looks like Jason Kidd did some sort of voodoo shit on them), they then get them back. Look at the Spurs and the Hornets games – most teams lose those games, but not a THibs-coached team. So getting them to get to be a good enough offensive team to pair with the defensive improvement (which is also partially from Thibs’ favorites Rose and Gibson joining the team and playing like they played for Thibs back in Chicago) and getting their temperament to a point where they wobble but don’t break is what has turned them from a 31 win team to a 41 win team.

Thibs’ Coaching Staff – A

The fact that, like, every Knick coach is discussed when a coaching opportunity opens up says a whole lot. Luckily, only Woodson actually got a job (a job that was clearly meant for Brad Stevens, right? You don’t spend all of that money with the end goal of getting Mike Woodson, right?), so this great coaching staff will be back next season almost entirely intact. To be fair, though, after Keith Smart, it is hard to not look like a genius assistant coach.

Leon Rose – A

Rose was most impressive in what he didn’t do. He didn’t panic and he just let the chips play where they lay this season and trusted in Thibs to get the most out of this roster, while adding value contracts like Noel and Burks, drafting a stud rookie in Quickley and then rewarding the early strong play by getting Thibs Rose (and a time machine for Rose). Brock Aller is a star and heck, maybe Scott Perry isn’t even useless when paired with smarter co-workers. Rose seems to like having a bunch of different voices and so the whole is likely even better than the sum of its parts. That’s nice to see.

NY Post: It’s All Happening, People!

Okay, I came up with that modified headline.

From Marc Berman:

Julius Randle raised his arms at the buzzer that ended the game and the regular season after the Knicks survived Sunday like they always seem to do.

Bring on Hotlanta!

The Knicks finished up their riveting regular season at the Garden on Fan Appreciation Day before a pandemic-reduced crowd of 1,981 and will open the playoffs here under the famed pinwheel ceiling next weekend for the first time since 2013.

In an ugly one down to the wire, Tom Thibodeau’s Knicks beat the Celtics’ junior varsity, 96-92, to clinch fourth place and home-court advantage in the first round of the NBA playoffs.

I legitimately was never concerned. Not even for a second. Maybe I should have been, but I wasn’t. This team doesn’t do Knicksy stuff, so it was fine all the way.

Congrats to the Knicks and now we get to chill and watch the play-in teams go at each other for our entertainment. Should be fun!

2020-21 Game Thread: PLAYOFFS BOUND Knicks vs. Payton Pritchard and Five Guys Off the Street (Probably Named Sully) For the #4 Seed!

After their excellent win against the Hornets yesterday and the Heat’s resounding loss to the Bucks, the Knicks only have to win today to get the #4 seed, home court in the first round of the playoffs and the Atlanta Hawks instead of the Milwaukee Bucks.

Luckily, fate had one last piece of magic pixie dust in store for the Knicks, as the Celtics, locked into the #7 seed and thus, the play-in game (Ha ha!), are resting literally their top seven guys, including all their starters.

With the Knicks of old, the concept of the trap game might scare you, but this is Thibs. Every game is Game 7, so they are going to demolish the Celtics and get that #4 seed and then we will see what kind of crazy lineup the Hawks will use against the Rockets once that game also becomes meaningless.

Let’s go, bring it home, Knicks!

NY Post: Knicks In the Driver’s Seat for the #4 Seed!

I added my own headline now that the Bucks won.

From Marc Berman:

The Knicks still need some assistance to secure the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference, but they continue to do whatever they can to attain the best possible postseason positioning.

On Saturday afternoon, the Knicks took care of the first of their final two games, outlasting the Hornets, 118-109, in overtime at the Garden for their 40th win of the season. The victory temporarily moved them back into the No. 4 position in the East — ahead of the idle Hawks via the head-to-head tiebreaker. They also were a half-game ahead of Miami, pending the Heat’s visit to No. 3 Milwaukee on Saturday night.

The Knicks (40-31) will conclude the regular season Sunday at the Garden against the Celtics, while the Hawks will host the NBA-worst Rockets and the Heat will visit Detroit. A three-way tie would give the Hawks the No. 4 slot as Southeast Division champions and drop the Knicks to No. 6 due to a lost tiebreaker against Miami.

In most other seasons, I would expect the Knickiest ending of the Knicks somehow losing to the Celtics tomorrow, but one of the most important things about this team is that they don’t do Knicksy things. In both this game and the Spurs game, the Knicks got knocked on their heels by a big run by the other team (“It’s the NBA. Everyone makes a run.”), but the Knicks got right back up and took care of business. That differentiates them from past Knick teams and that’s all Thibs.

So I find it very difficult to believe that they’re going to lose to some scrubby Celtics team that doesn’t even need to win tomorrow, so might even rest their starters.

The Knicks are this close to home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Amazing.

And come on, when Jimmy Butler missed tonight’s game, you can’t tell me that you didn’t get that feeling that this Knicks’ season has had more than a dollop of pixie dust on it, right? Thibs creates a lot of magic pixie dust himself, but they’ve also been blessed with stuff like that, too, all season long and it’s been much appreciated.

So I now expect a Joel Embiid playoff injury after the Knicks take care of the Hawks, when Trae Young slips on a banana peel or some shit and misses three games of the first round series.

2020-21 Game Thread: PLAYOFFS BOUND Knicks vs. Hornets

Today is more or less the “make or break” day for the Knicks in their quest to get the #4 seed. They play the Hornets and the Heat later tonight take on the Milwaukee Bucks, who are still in line to possibly get the #2 seed from the Nets (unlikely, but possible).

If the Knicks win and the Heat lose, the Knicks would then be in the #4 spot in the Eastern Conference ahead of a game against the Celtics where the Celtics will likely be resting their players. If the Knicks and Heat both lose, the Knicks will almost assuredly be in the #6 spot. If the Knicks lose and the Heat win, same difference.

So…well, you know, how about the Knicks win this one and then the Heat lose tonight, okay? That’d be swell.

Let’s go, get that #4 seed, Knicks!

NY Post: Alec Burks sparks comeback as Knicks stay alive for No. 4 seed in East

From Marc Berman:

These Knicks never stop impressing with their fortitude and resiliency.

On their return to the Garden after a six-game, 11-day Western road trip, and with one of their top performers, Derrick Rose, out with a sprained ankle, the Knicks fell behind by 17 points to the Spurs during a third-quarter disaster Thursday.

But up to the plate stepped reserve swingman Alec Burks, who made his own return from a three-game absence with a knee bruise and COVID-19 to spark the Knicks to a raging 102-98 comeback victory.

Burks, who recently missed eight games with COVID-19, scored a season-high 30 points, and RJ Barrett got hot during the comeback, hitting six straight shots at one juncture to finish with 24 points after his eight-point dud in Los Angeles against the Lakers on Tuesday.

“It shows our grit and toughness,’’ Barrett said of the comeback. “We’re not going to back down.’’

That was an amazing performance by Burks, but what’s funny is that for a Pop-coached team, the Spurs really helped the Knicks a ton during that big run by constantly taking shortarmed outside shots. If you know you’re tiring in the second half of a second night of a back-to-back, you really should drive. Not only does it up the chances of you making the shot, but it also takes up clock. It was a surprisingly poor piece of decision-making by the Spurs.

Later in the game, when the Spurs came back on the Knicks after the Knicks took the lead, it was with drives. So it was very surprising.

The key thing, though, was that Burks was just outstanding. Barrett and Randle made some big shots, as well, but Burks was on fire. The Knicks desperately needed this one to keep their hopes of the #4 seed alive, as the Heat and the Hawks both won tonight.

The Knicks play the Hornets on Saturday afternoon and the Heat play the Bucks (who have a chance of getting the #2 seed) Saturday night. Those two games will likely determine whether the Knicks get the #4 seed or the #6 seed.

Big time win.

2020-21 Game Thread: PLAYOFFS BOUND Knicks vs. Spurs

The Knicks head into their last three games of the regular season (but the season period, as they will be playing in the postseason. Woohoo!) with a big homestand. The Miami Heat play the Philadelphia 76ers tonight, and while the Sixers are very close to nailing down the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference, it is not yet a lock, so the Sixers still have something to play for, so the Heat could easily lose that game, in which case the Knicks would just have to win out their remaining games to lock in the #4 seed (as if the Knicks and Hawks end the season tied, the Knicks win the tiebreaker).

So winning these last three games is really important. If all they do is win out, they are clooooooose to controlling their destiny, as the Heat also play the Bucks, who will possibly still be fighting to win the #2 seed at the time. So the Bucks might be playing for something, as well.

However, the Spurs also need to win this game to make sure that they make the play-in game in the Western Conference, so that’s an issue, as well.

But whatever, just win this freakin’ game, okay, Knicks?

Let’s go, lock in that #4 seed, Knicks!

NY Post: Knicks lose OT crusher to Lakers as playoff clinch will have to wait

From Marc Berman:

Knicks superfan Spike Lee looked up, at the Staples Center scoreboard, shaking his head, staring at the replay of Wesley Matthews’ putback.

Lee couldn’t believe it. Neither could Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau.

The Knicks’ playoff-clinching celebration will have to wait. The clincher got away — along with that one lost rebound.

In a Hollywood heartbreaker, the Knicks blew a 10-point fourth-quarter lead and the defending-champion Lakers showed their mettle in overtime by surviving a 101-99 battle in Tuesday night thriller in front of 3,550 fans.

The Knicks had the game and the playoffs in the bag but couldn’t hold off these Lakers, even with LeBron James watching from the bench.

And the Knicks were devastated.

“It sucks,’’ Julius Randle said. “We fought like hell. Me, I played to exhaustion. I know my guys played to exhaustion. To do what we did, last game of the road trip, against a championship-caliber team, the play was great. And for me to have an opportunity to finish the game off. I felt I had to finish the game.’’

It was fascinating to hear just how upset they all were about that missed rebound. Here’s Thibs, “Rebounding beat us tonight. All we had to do is get that last rebound — the last shot of the game. Everyone’s got to get a body on everyone. That’s the bottom line. Their rebounding hurt us throughout the game. We always say defend, rebound and keep turnovers down. If you neglect that area, you’re going to pay for it.’’

Rose noted that Thibs yelled at him about it and that he should have just fouled Matthews as soon as it was clear that Matthews has him beat for the rebound (I don’t think that would have been a good idea, though, for as soon as you realize you’re beat for the rebound, Matthews might be able to muscle his way into still putting up a close shot that could go in with the foul), adding, “It’s f–king hard right now. It just sucks, man. I’m still upset about it. There’s a lot going on.’’ Chill out, dudes, you still have opportunities to win the #4 seed! Think about it, the Sixers lost last night, too, so they’re going to have to win on Thursday to clinch the #1 seed, so if they beat the Heat and the Knicks win out, the Knicks will finish ahead of the Heat and in a tie-breaker with just the Hawks, the Knicks win the tiebreaker. It’s only if there is a three-way tie that the Knicks lose out to both teams.

The key for the Knicks is to just win these last three games, and the Celtics will almost certainly be eliminated from the #6 seed by the time the Knicks play them, so they might not even give a shit about that game. The Hornets are not a problem. It comes down to the Spurs, but knowing how this season has gone, Pop will use that game as a tinkering game, as he’s been doing lately, where he tries out weird lineups every so often, less concerned about winning games this year and more concerned about where to concentrate on next season (as the Spurs ain’t going anywhere this year, even though they can be pretty darn good at full power. They just stomped the Bucks the other day).

The other interesting thing is that Kyrie Irving might be hurt and the Bucks are pretty close to the #2 seed. So the eventual #6 seed might get a hurting Nets team instead of the Bucks. Not only that, but the fact that they are so close will likely mean that the Bucks have something to play against when they play the Heat. Remember, only the Heat own the direct tiebreaker with the Knicks. If it is a two-way tiebreaker between the Knicks and Hawks, the Knicks win it. So just win out and hope the chips fall into play.

Last night was rough, but don’t lose the forest for the trees. The Knicks are still in pretty good shape for the #4 seed. They just really need to win these last three games at home, but they should.