From Marc Berman:
The Knicks’ fairytale season is nearly over.
Tom Thibodeau’s Knicks were a terrific-regular season team, but their flaws have been revealed during this depressing first-round series against the Hawks.
Julius Randle was a little better and RJ Barrett was a lot better, but neither was nearly enough to stifle Atlanta’s weaponry. The Hawks have put the Knicks on the brink with Sunday’s 113-96 victory before 16,458 at raucous State Farm Arena.
The Knicks are in a 3-1 hole in the best-of-seven series and have never come back from that deficit in 13 tries in their history. Just 13 teams in 260 instances have ever recovered from a 3-1 deficit.
“We’ve got to fix it,’’ Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. “We’ve got to fix it fast.”
Game 5 is back at what will be a frenzied Garden on Wednesday. In the fourth quarter, the Atlanta fans did themselves proud, chanting “Hawks in Five” as they led by as many as 26 points.
Randle begs to differ with the odds.
“I like our chances,” Randle said. “To answer your question, I love our chances. It’s not over. It’s not nearly over.”
Shooting 24 percent in the series entering the afternoon, Randle scored his playoff-high 23 points and added seven assists and 10 rebounds, but shot just 7-for-19 and committed five turnovers. He was on the receiving end of “overrated” chants all game.
That was depressing enough that I waited until now to write about it.
Let’s get the perfunctory “the series is not over” stuff out of the way. That’s very true. Look at the situation the Clippers were in after losing the first two games of their series at home and now look how that series looks, with the Clippers winning both games in Dallas by sizable margins. So a series’ look can change very quickly.
That said, obviously it is a lot to ask any team to win three in a row against a playoff team. So this series is likely not going to end well for the Knicks.
However, I continue to not mind it that much, as this really feels more like a beginning than an end. What I think would have been an iffy approach would have been to just run this team back next year, as there is a clear difference in your supporting cast being a bunch of still young, good lottery picks and one of the hottest free agents of the past offseason (think how good Bogo would look on the Knicks) and your supporting cast being Reggie Bullock, Alec Burks, Nerlens Noel and Taj Gibson.
The former is likely to get even better while it’s hard to imagine a next gear next season from the Knick vets. I think it isn’t unreasonable to expect similar production next year, but for long term success, they’re probably better off using their cap space on someone who can grow with their young stars, Randle and Barrett (and Immanuel Quickley and Mitch Robinson and I guess Obi Toppin).
The future is still bright, though, with a cupboard full of assets plus a lot of cap space. Rose could trade for a young player, as well. Lots of great possibilities, so I’m quite happy about the position this team is in overall. Is that good position also a bit precarious? Of course. Things could go way wrong, but if they do, i think it will be from a bold move that just didn’t work out, not by being overly conservative.
So I think that, while frustrating, there is a silver lining to the limitations of this team being so glaring so far this series.
Or I could just be trying to convince myself of that. Either or.