While Knicks fans might have been suffering from the hangover of Sunday night’s Game 1 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, star forward Julius Randle is well past it as his side tries to even up the series in Game 2 at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday.
All eyes will be on Randle to pick his game up after a disappointing 15-point playoff debut in which he shot 6-of-23 from the field in the 107-105 loss.
Yet, Randle’s spirits were high as the Knicks prepare to take the floor for Game 2.
“I know myself, when I woke up this morning, I was happy,” he said on Monday. “I was laughing. I enjoy this, just being uncomfortable — or I don’t even know if it’s being uncomfortable. I just enjoy this process, this is fun.
“This is what the playoffs are about, just solving problems or issues, whatever it is, it’s the process… When we all saw each other today, our group morale, everybody, we were really encouraged. We just felt good. That was encouraging to see. I think it’ll translate to the court, but we do understand we have to have a sense of urgency.”
The Knicks can’t afford to drop both games at home and hope they can somehow pull out the series with three of the following five games coming in Atlanta.
In order to get in the win column, they’ll have to try and stop Hawks star point guard Trae Young, who dropped 32 points and the game-winning floater with 0.9 seconds left in Gam 1.
He subsequently catapulted up the list of notorious Knicks villains as he proceeded to shush the Madison Square Garden crowd before repeating after the game that the building had been quiet.
Needless to say, Knicks fans will continue to get on the young Hawks star as chants of “F— Trae Young” echoed throughout the Garden.
“I just got to let my play do the talking. At the end of the day, fans can only talk. They can’t guard me. They’re not out there playing,” Young said after Game 1. “But I know the work’s not done yet. It’s just one game.”
If there was anything promising to take out of the disappointing loss, it was that the Knicks stayed in it right until the end without Randle playing up to his All-Star tendencies.
In order for that to change, Tom Thibodeau simply stated that Randle has “just got to bring energy.”
“We trust him,” Thibodeau said (h/t Steve Popper, Newsday). “He can score a lot of different ways. He can also beat you with the pass. So the game’s going to tell you what to do. He’s seen that defense before. Just make sure you’re looking for your reads, play with energy, run the floor, do the things that make us successful all year long.”
Game 2 tips off from the Garden at 7:30 p.m. ET.