Julius Randle, RJ Barrett flop in Knicks’ blowout Game 3 loss to Hawks
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ATLANTA — Tom Thibodeau can change the Knicks’ starting point guard but he can’t change what his team has been built around this season: Julius Randle and RJ Barrett as a dynamic 1-2 punch.
For the third straight game, the duo underperformed and the Hawks took a 2-1 lead in the first-round playoff series with an emphatic 105-94 victory in Game 3 at rowdy and red State Farm Arena.
Hawks fans were given red “Believe’’ T-shirts, and they have plenty of reason now to believe this series has tilted heavily in their direction. Game 4 is slated for Sunday in downtown “Hotlanta.”
The Knicks were blown away on a 22-3 run in the second quarter as Atlanta’s defense swarmed and the Hawks’ 3-point shooters awoke, giving them a 58-44 halftime bulge. Atlanta never looked back.
Randle and Barrett combined to shoot 4-for-24 from the field (3-for-12 from 3-point range). Randle finished with 14 points and Barrett had just seven.
Derrick Rose was given the start at point guard over the benched Elfrid Payton and played well, finishing with 30 points. But he couldn’t do it alone after scoring nine of the Knicks’ first 15 points.
Payton’s mother didn’t seem pleased about her son’s benching, subtweeting “How that Worked out for you! #ProudMama” off a photo of the Knicks’ starting five.
In the first half, former Knick Danilo Gallinari, after two troubling games, lit up from 3-point range, hitting all three of his treys en route to 12 points. Trae Young, who poured in 21 points, hit a key 3-pointer to put the Hawks up for good, 41-39, midway through the second quarter. De’Andre Hunter made it 58-42 with a left-wing trey late in the first half.
Overall, the Hawks outscored the Knicks 29-13 in the second quarter of doom. Atlanta was 9-for-15 from the 3-point line in the half.
Barrett couldn’t get going and was 0-for-5 at halftime. The one shot that went in late in the second quarter came a hair after the 24-second violation buzzer. Randle was 1-for-9 in the half.
Randle’s lone make in the first half was a biggie — a last-second 3-pointer that capped a six-point splurge in the final 1.1 seconds of the first quarter and should have given the Knicks major momentum, but did not.
The six-point spree started when Reggie Bullock got fouled on a corner 3. He made all three free throws before Gallinari threw the inbound pass away. The Knicks got it to Randle for a left-wing trey for his first field goal and the Knicks led 31-29 after one quarter.
The Atlanta crowd didn’t create quite as raucous an atmosphere as the Garden din, but they certainly rivaled the noise. The night began with chants of “New York Sucks’’ and “A-T-L.” The small coterie of Knicks fans were drowned out by boos when they chanted “MVP” with Randle at the line.
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