Photo: Seth Wenig/pool
The Knicks played their first playoff game since 2013 on Sunday night, and the Knicks fans worked themselves up in a lather for hours before the game. The buzz took place outside Madison Square Garden, and it carried over inside when the game started.
Knicks fans decided to be cute by chanting “F— Trae Young” to start the game and during the game. Never mind this was his first playoff game. Apparently, Knicks fans wanted to scare him.
They showed him, didn’t they?
Young hit the game-winning shot that gave the Atlanta Hawks a 107-105 victory over the Knicks to take a 1-0 series lead. Not only did that shot do the talking for him, but he added insult to injury by raising his finger to his lips to the crowd by telling them to shush and told Shaquille O’Neal on TNT’s Inside the NBA that he wanted to hear those bleep him chants again. He also trolled the Knicks fans on his Twitter account about what they are gonna say next?
Despite hitting the game-winning shot and finishing the game with 30 points, 10 assists and five rebounds in his postseason debut, Knicks fans will have so many more unpleasant things to say to Young on Wednesday when the series resumes at the Garden. He can expect to hear more of that for the rest of his promising career.
Fans trolling Young brought disgusting memories of Spike Lee taunting Reggie Miller in Game 5 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals at the Garden. Miller got hot in the fourth quarter by shooting five 3-pointers and scoring 25 points to give the Pacers a 93-86 victory over the Knicks that would put the Knicks on the brink of elimination. Fortunately for the Knicks and their fans, the Knicks responded by winning Game 6 at Indianapolis and Game 7 at home.
No wonder basketball fans compared Young to Reggie Miller on Twitter during the game. They shut the fans up by playing well, and they have the audacity of being villains in this town. Miller certainly is. Maybe Young will be in the same pantheon as Michael Jordan and Miller one day.
If nothing else, this showed the Knicks are back in a sense the Knicks fans found a playoff villain to hate.
Young’s heroics will make everyone forget the Knicks started off flat in the first quarter by trailing 22-11 to the Hawks. At the end of that quarter, the Hawks finished with a 24-16 lead. It took until the second quarter for the Knicks to make an impact. By then, the Hawks were confident and it was too little too late. The Hawks never flinched, and when they needed a basket by Young, he delivered.
This offered another painful reminder that the Knicks don’t have a closer or a dynamic player that can make the difference between winning and losing in a tight spot. Until they find that guy, they are going to be a nice regular-season team at best.
It certainly isn’t Julius Randle from what we saw in the final play of the game and this season. Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau designed a play for Randle to hit a game-tying shot that would go to overtime. The shot never came through.
It was an interesting move by Thibodeau to run the play through him. Randle struggled by scoring 15 points on 6-of-23 shooting. Plus, when has he ever made a clutch shot for the Knicks? I can’t come up with one.
I would have orchestrated that play to Derrick Rose (17 points) or Alec Burks (27 points). Rose is known to make shots like that, and Burks played well enough to keep the Knicks in the game. I would have won or lost with either one than Randle.
It remains to be seen if RJ Barrett can be that guy. He scored 14 points on 6-for-15 shooting in what was another uninspiring performance. We can talk about him being 20 years old all we want to justify his struggles. We can say he is only in his second season. But he has yet to show he has it in him to come up with one, so we can’t assume he will all of a sudden figure it out.
The Hawks can win the series because they have Young. He is the best player in the series. He showed that in Game 1. He not only gives them hope, but he gives them confidence. For him to play great in his first playoff game at the Mecca of Basketball, that’s quite an impression. For him to become a villain in these parts after one great game, that’s respect.
In what should have been a special moment for the Knicks and their fans, this became a showcase for Young instead.
Let’s just say he’s not finished yet. This is just the beginning.