NEW YORK — Part of the New York Knicks’ turnaround this season from perennial league laughingstock to the playoffs for the first time since 2012-13 was an emphasis on defense.
Enter defensive-minded coach Tom Thibodeau, and the impact was immediate.
New York led the NBA in opponent field goal and three-point percentage and allowed the fewest points per game.
But as good as that defensive effort was, the ability to score is what’s ultimately going to win pivotal games in the playoffs. The Knicks at times found themselves bogged down by poor shooting, and with the offense looking for a spark, rushed shots and turned the ball over.
Led by Derrick Rose’s 26 points and using a spirited third quarter-run, the Knicks had five players score in double figures and fought back from a 15-point first-half deficit to defeat the Hawks 101-92 in Game 2 and send this Eastern Conference first-round series back to Atlanta tied at one.
Derrick Rose (26 PTS) fuels the @nyknicks first #NBAPlayoffs win since 2013 as they tie the series 1-1! #NewYorkForever
Game 3: Friday at 7pm/et on ESPN pic.twitter.com/H6agMwnCSS
"I am just appreciative to be in the league," said Rose, who played a team-high 39 minutes. "My job is to play as hard as I can. They allowed me to come here and play the way I play."
Bouncing back from a miserable first half, Julius Randle, the NBA’s Most Improved Player, added 15 points and 12 rebounds. Randle shot 5-for-16 in Game 2 after going 6-for-23 in the opener.
Reggie Bullock also had 15 points for the Knicks and made four second half 3-pointers.
For the first 30 minutes, the Knicks were in danger of getting run out of Madison Square Garden, despite the crowd chanting profanities and booing every chance it got.
New York’s latest villain, Atlanta guard Trae Young, got the festivities started with a
28-foot step-back 3-pointer less than a minute into the game.
The Knicks shot 29% in the first half, missing 13 of their first 17 shots, and quickly found themselves down double digits.
Young, following a 32-point performance in Game 1, scored 30, including 13 in a row at one point, and dished out seven assists to lead Atlanta, becoming only the sixth player in league history to score 30 points in his first two playoff games.
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