Knicks vs. Hawks: 3 Major takeaways from Game 2

NY Knicks, Derrick Rose Elsa/POOL PHOTOS-USA TODAY Sports
NY Knicks, Derrick Rose Elsa/POOL PHOTOS-USA TODAY Sports /
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NY Knicks
Julius Randle, RJ Barrett, NY Knicks. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

Knicks: Julius Randle is alive!

After maybe the worst game he’s had all season to start this series, Randle rallied back with a solid enough performance in Game 2. He was far from the level Knicks fans have come to expect from him, but he was revived in that second half and really started making things happen.

The Hawks were sending double and triple teams at him from the get-go, and it was honestly an effective strategy. Randle has never had to deal with pressure and attention like that his entire NBA career, and that had to have been what threw him off so much in Game 1.

Because of the way the Knicks depend on Randle to get buckets, his initial reaction Wednesday night was to shoot his way through the Hawks’ defense. The team needed points from him and if he needed to take tough shots to get there then so be it. That’s what led to a 2-point first half for Randle on 0-6 shooting.

Head Coach Tom Thibodeau or somebody must’ve given him a good talking to in the locker room at halftime because the Randle that came out in the 3rd quarter was a completely different animal. Tapping into his roots as a playmaker, Randle wouldn’t hesitate to drive into double teams, only this time he would make the right read and swing the ball to the weak side and the open man. The defense would rotate, the ball would hum around, and often enough Randle would get it back for the finish.

That’s what he’s going to have to do in Game 3. The Hawks are clearly laboring under the impression that if they can stop Randle they can stop the Knicks. Now, they might have a point, but forcing him to be a playmaker rather than an iso scorer is what allowed the Knicks to come back in this game.

In Game 3, Randle is going to have to be the same willing passer he was in the second half of Game 2. He’s going to be double-teamed, but he’s skilled enough to be the hub of an offense whether he’s finishing the play or not.

The Hawks are going to try and take him out of the game, but if Randle plays smart and keeps his eyes up he’ll be able to share the sugar and elevate his entire team. That’s when he becomes a true star in this league, and that’s when the Hawks lose.