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Out with a whimper: Knicks eliminated by Hawks in timid Game 5 showing

Knicks Hawks Young Bullock
Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young (11) points to New York Knicks forward Reggie Bullock (25) after scoring in the first quarter during game five in the first round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs. at Madison Square Garden.
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks fulfilled their prophecy of going into Madison Square Garden and sending the Knicks on vacation Wednesday night, dismantling and eliminating New York in Game 5 with a thumping 103-89 victory.

As has been the story all series, the Knicks could not overcome a timid offense that sputtered to a miserable 37.8% effort from the field, including a disastrous third quarter in which they were outscored 22-15.

Julius Randle once again was the most glaring struggler — even if it was one of his better games of the series — posting 23 points and 13 rebounds, but also turning the ball over eight times.

Hawks star Trae Young also had a difficult shooting night from the field, but he still managed to drop 36 points on the Knicks behind his tricky ability to get to the free-throw line. He had 15 attempts from the charity stripe on Wednesday.

Capela and Atlanta also dominated the interior, putting further pressure on a misfiring Knicks squad that was unable to sustain any sort of momentum because of it. While New York was outrebounded by only three, 48-45, on the night with Capela accounted for 15 of those.

Had it not been for Reggie Bullock, the Knicks might’ve been run out of the gym even earlier than their second-half collapse. His three three-pointers accounted for a bulk of the host’s offensive success from the floor amid a timid 4-for-17 start from the floor.

But an equally poor start from the Hawks, especially from three-point range, kept the Knicks in it.

Randle continued to lack the killer instinct that made him an All-Star in the regular season, but he had one of his best starts of the series, posting 10 points and nine rebounds in the opening quarter.

Three minutes into the second, the Knicks were shooting just 30% from the field, yet still were flirting with a slim lead as the Hawks were 1-of-14 from beyond the arc. They’d go 3-of-17 from deep for the entire first half.

But the Hawks did what they do best — get to the foul line — where they built a lead as large as seven in the first half and one that was five at halftime.

All the while, the physicality and bad blood continued to linger over the series, coming to a head at halftime when three technical fouls were handed out — two to the Knicks — as teams had to be separated when Solomon Hill got in the face of Nerlens Noel after he bumped Young walking off the floor.

While Knicks offense continued to remain hesitant, the Hawks went on a 9-0 run early in the third quarter to take a 12-point lead that they would hold onto as both offenses suddenly went cold.

Young found his stroke for a moment, coming at a perfect time for the Hawks as a straightaway three with less than three minutes remaining put Atlanta up 14 before it grew to 16 just moments later.

The Knicks would only cut their deficit down to 12 heading into the fourth, ending a dreadful quarter in which they mustered just eight field goals.

Quickley was called upon to try and spark the Knicks early in the fourth, headlining a unit that included fellow youngsters in Obi Toppin and Barrett on the floor to start the most important quarter of the team’s season.

They cut it to nine, but with eight minutes left, the Knicks turned back to Randle as the Hawks rediscovered the gas pedal and firmly mashed it to the floor, re-extending their lead to 16 with 6:38 remaining.

Less than a minute later, DeAndre Hunter provided the dagger from three-point range to go up 19 and put a bow on the Knicks’ season.

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