The New York Knicks’ proverbial backs are firmly up against the wall now after being run out of Atlanta behind two straight double-digit losses to fall into a 3-1 first-round series hole.
One more loss spells the end of the Knicks’ season as they make their way back to Madison Square Garden for Game 5 with an offense out of sorts and a defense that has been unable to find an answer for the mercurial Trae Young and his support staff.
“We have to fix it and we have to fix it fast,” Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau said. “The playoffs are different. We have guys who are getting experience for the first time but we’re capable and we have to go home and figure out how to play well in that game. Just take it step-by-step.”
The glaring headliner of the Knicks’ struggles this series has been the offensive struggles of Julius Randle, who is averaging nearly eight points fewer in the first round than he did in the regular season. While he eclipsed the 20-point mark in Game 4, he has yet to shoot 40% from the field in his postseason debut.
“I think the biggest thing for me is to be more decisive, trust all the work that I put in,” Randle said. “Misses and makes really don’t matter… I have to be a lot better, I have to continue to be a lot better. This is a learning experience.”
The Knicks have lacked that killer instinct during this series against Atlanta as hesitation reigns supreme. They’re shooting just over 40% over the first four games of the series and a measly 32.8% from three-point range — not nearly good enough for a team who ranked third in the league in three-point shooting percentage during the regular season.
“We shot the three great all year so I think the big thing for us is to make quick decisions,” Thibodeau said. “If we do that, we’re capable of making those shots. I don’t want guys hesitating. You’ve done it throughout the course of the season… if you’re open shoot it, if not, make a play.”
While the Knicks are staring down the barrel of elimination, Randle is setting the example of keeping his cool and taking a step back — even if there were flashes of disappointment during the implosion of a second half in Game 4 on Sunday.
“Most people get discouraged or whatever it is, I’m just trying to get even-keeled because it’s only going to make it better,” Randle said. “Last year, coming what I came from, the experience of last season…. this whole postseason thing… I’ll come back and be better next games.
“It’s not over. It’s not nearly over. Come back Game 5 and take it from here.”
Game 5 at Madison Square Garden will feature its largest crowd to date with a sell-out crowd of 16,000 set to be in attendance. In Randle and the Knicks’ mindset, all they need to do is get one back and take it from there.
“At the end of the day, it’s one game at a time and that’s all we can focus on,” Randle said. “We have Game 5 back at home to extend the series and that’s all we can focus on.
“I love our chances.”