The New York Knicks’ first playoff game in eight years ended in disappointment as Trae Young’s floater with 0.9 seconds remaining lifted the Atlanta Hawks to a 107-105 victory in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference first-round series at Madison Square Garden.
Young was masterful in his playoff debut, dropping 32 points with 10 assists, finishing things off by blowing by the right side of supposed Knicks’ defensive specialist Frank Ntilikina and rimming home the game-winning floater.
He then proceeded to motion to the 15,000 fans at Madison Square Garden to be quiet as the Knicks’ last gasp fell flat as an overthrown inbound pass to Julius Randle didn’t give the star forward enough time to even get a shot off.
Randle was heavily limited by the Hawks’ active defense, which made stopping the Knicks’ No. 1 man a No. 1 priority this series. Randle was held to just 15 points on 6-of-24 shooting with 12 rebounds.
He was picked up by the bench as Alec Burks finished with a playoff career-high of 27 points — including 18 in the fourth quarter — while Derrick Rose added 17 points and five assists and Immanuel Quickley posted 10 points and three helpers. In total, the bench accounted for 64 points.
It was Young who put the Hawks up 105-103 in the final minute before Rose hit a floater to tie things up with 9.3 seconds remaining — allowing Atlanta an opportunity to get the last shot, or something close to it.
The Knicks’ defense lived up to its standing as one of the best in the NBA this season for most of the night, but they were adept at keeping the Hawks off of the free-throw line. That’s a monumental task considering Young led the NBA in 2020-21 in free throws.
Atlanta attempted just 12 free throws with Young accounting for nine of them.
The Knicks fell behind as many as 11 in the first, but Thibodeau turned to his bench, calling upon Rose, Obi Toppin, and Quickley to flip the script — which they did.
So began a stalemate that spanned most of the evening as neither team was able to properly pull away and sustain a multi-possession lead.
The Hawks never got close to their 11-point lead from early in the game while the Knicks led by as many as seven, which came with 1:12 remaining in the third quarter when a Taj Gibson free throw put New York up 73-66.
But Atlanta would respond with a 7-0 run to tie things up just 26 seconds into the fourth, and made a quick comeback again when the Knicks took an 82-76 lead after Burks was fouled on a three-point attempt and sank all three with 8:52 to go.
Burks’ takeover of the game continued, but the Hawks unleashed an 8-0 run behind three points from Bojan Bogdanovic and DeAndre Hunter put Atlanta up four with 2:59 to go in regulation.
The Knicks pushed right back with Barrett hitting a layup before Randle found a sliver of daylight to sink a three-pointer to put the hosts up by one with 2:04 to go.
After Young hit a running lay-up and one, Burks came up huge again, recording five-straight points with a corner three and a jumper from just in front of the Hawks bench to put the Knicks up three, 103-100 with 1:11 to go.
Still, the Hawks kept coming, and Bogdanovic sank a corner three to tie things up inside a minute to go. With 28.6 seconds remaining, Barrett was called for a foul on Young while driving toward the pain from the left side. The Knicks challenged as the contact was questionable, but the call stood to set up the final frantic seconds.