The Knicks fell to the Atlanta Hawks in their first playoff game in eight years because of a variety of different reasons on Sunday night, but one things for sure: their bench stepped up and came to play.
Despite Madison Square Garden rocking from the tip, the starters, including All-Star Julius Randle and second year guard RJ Barrett, stumbled out the gate and found themselves down by 11 early in the first quarter.
Alec Burks, Derrick Rose, Immanuel Quickley, Taj Gibson, and yes, even Obi Toppin, came in down the stretch of the next quarter and a half, and turned things around, helping the Knicks come back and get back within two after 24 minutes of play.
As the game wore on and Randle and Barrett continued to mostly struggle with their shooting, Burks, Rose and Quickley continued to pour it on.
By the fourth quarter, it turned into the Burks show, as the guard dropped a stunning 18-points in the period and nearly helped the Knicks steal Game 1.
Though Trae Young was the one to hit the final big shot of the night and take Game 1 for the Hawks, what happened off the bench was huge for the rest of the series’ potential.
Burks, Rose and Quickley combined for 54 points and 21-of-36 shooting off the bench, with Burks dropping 27 points, Rose scoring 17 points and Quickley adding another 10 in his playoff debut
“The strength of our team is the depth,” Burks said after the game in a Zoom call with reporters. “We got a lot of players from top to bottom that can produce at anytime, from 1-to-15. I’m proud of them and I know it because I see these guys in practice everyday, and I know we have a deep team.”
Gibson had five points, nine rebounds, a steal and a block in 24 minutes, while Toppin put up another five points, a board and assist in 12 minutes.
Randle and Barrett, on the other hand, finished a combined 12-of-38 for 19 points, but were efficient on the boards, each grabbing a double-double with 12 and 11 boards, respectively.
Tom Thibodeau has many different lineups at his disposal, and there are times when he doesn’t have either Randle or Barrett on the floor. So it’s good to see that even in a game with such high stakes (and such a crazy atmosphere), there are guys off the bench that can keep the team afloat — and then some.
“It’s a series, not a one-game elimination,” Rose said on the Knicks’ chances moving forward. “…They won the first one, they came in and did what they were supposed to do. We’ve got to win this next one and go back there.
“Take every game one game at a time, don’t look ahead and just stay focused.”