In the third quarter of Monday night’s game at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, the New Knicks appeared to be lifeless against the much-improved Hawks. Enter Immanuel Quickley. The rookie first round draft choice from Kentucky fueled the Knicks rally from a 15-point deficit and helped locked down Trey Young in the closing minutes as New York (4-3) defeated the Hawks (4-3) 113-108. Quickley scored nine of his 16 points in the fourth as the Knicks won three out of four on the current road trip and four of five overall.
The win marks the first tine New York has been over the .500 mark after seven games since 2013.
“I got great teammates. And I went to the University of Kentucky,” when asked how he can play so poised in only his third NBA game. “We had to battle back, but I think this team is going to do something special.”
The Hawks came into the evening as the second-best scoring team in the league including a 141-point effort in a win over Eastern Conference favorite Brooklyn. Seven Atlanta players are averaging double figures on the season.
The Knicks raced out to a 24-14 lead, but Atlanta responded with a 13-2 spurt to go ahead 27-26. New York recovered to lead 31-29 after at the end of the first. Julius Randle continued his strong start to the season. Randle had the hot hand early, scoring 12 points to go along with five rebounds in the opening stanza.
New York used a stellar effort on defense to maintain a narrow lead for the better part of the second quarter. However, Atlanta finished the half with a flourish. Twice the Knicks fell asleep and gave up easy transition baskets forcing Tom Thibodeau to call a timeout to voice his displeasure. A three-pointer by John Collins sent Atlanta to the locker room with a 58-54 lead.
The third quarter has caused the downfall of the Knicks, at times this season, and the issue reared its ugly head again. The Hawks opened the half with a 15-6 run to extend their advantage to 73-60. During one span of the late second and early third quarters, Atlanta connected on 14 of 15 shots.
Atlanta led by as much as 15, leaving the stagnant Knicks desperate for a spark. And Quickley and Kevin Knox provided it. Quickley nailed a three-pointer and drove to the basket for a slam to cut the deficit to seven. Knox connected on a pair of treys, including one at the buzzer to make it a four-point game at 88-84 heading to the fourth.
In the final quarter the Knicks were able to regain the lead. Quickley knocked down another three and a traditional three-point play by RJ Barrett put New York back in front 94-93.
Barrett and Randle played 44 and 43 minutes, respectively. Randle finished with 28 points, 17 rebounds and nine assists. Barrett had 26 points and 11 boards. Elfrid Payton scored 14 despite not playing in the fourth quarter.
Austin Rivers was also instrumental in the victory. Rivers made a key three-pointer in the fourth quarter and helped neutralize Young in the waning minutes.
“We didn’t play great, but we found a way to win,” Thibodeau said. “I love the fight in our team. Julius had a monster game.”
Trae Young had a game-high 31 points to go along with 14 assists for Atlanta. De’Andre Hunter contributed 23. Clint Capela had a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds. Collins with 18 points and Cam Reddish with 10 also hit double figures for the Hawks.
The Knicks return to Madison Square Garden Wednesday night to face the Utah Jazz.
(AP Photo/John Bazemore)