Julius Randle's struggles coming at worst possible time as Knicks trail Hawks

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Julius Randle looks up Hawks Game 3 black uniform
Julius Randle looks up Hawks Game 3 black uniform

One way to look at this Knicks-Hawks series? Atlanta’s best player has soundly outplayed New York’s.

Trae Young had another masterful game on Friday night, putting up 20 points and 12 assists in the Hawks’ Game 3 win.

Julius Randle struggled again, going 2-for-15 and scoring 14 points. For the series, Randle is 13-for-54 from the floor.

The Hawks have been shading him at times with Clint Capela, loading up on the strong side at times and sending a double-team from Randle’s blind side.

It’s resulted in the worst three-game shooting stretch of the season for Randle at the worst possible time.

Randle and his teammates also haven’t been able to take advantage of the imbalance on the floor when Atlanta sends an extra defender at Randle. That may be a bigger issue for New York than Randle’s shooting.

“They’re loaded up pretty good. It’s not just the second guy, it’s the third guy also. So when that happens, the big thing is to get rid of the ball, make plays early,” Tom Thibodeau said. “When you do that, usually you can get really high percentage shots off of that. And with you’re primary scorers, that’s what you want.

“When you get the second defender on the ball, they’re responsibility is to get rid of it, to make plays for their teammates. Any time you have two on the ball, that means you have an advantage on the backside. And whether that’s wide open shot, a drive or the second shot, there are a lot of good things to come off of that.”

So much of the Knicks’ success on offense this season has come from taking advantage of the attention Randle garners on offense.

He averaged a career-high six assists for New York. But he and the Knicks haven’t been able to generate the same shots against the Hawks.

“Anytime the second defender comes, it’s usually not the first pass, it’s the second pass that will get an open shot,” Thibodeau said. “So we can’t hold on to the ball. We can’t allow the clock to run down. We got to make quicker decisions, we have to move. And you got to play with intensity.”

The intensity didn’t seem to be there for Randle or the Knicks on Friday. If they don’t find it on Sunday, the Knicks’ season could be over by the middle of next week.

BARRETT MISSING OPEN SHOTS

Randle’s poor shooting wasn’t the only reason New York lost on Friday. RJ Barrett went 2-for-9 and had just seven points in 29 minutes.

“I know I’m getting a lot of good shots. Those are threes I need to make. That’s about it,” Barrett said after Game 3.

The Knicks can’t win when their top two players – Randle and Barrett – miss 20 of 24 shots.

ROSE STARTS

New York got off to a strong start with Derrick Rose in the starting lineup. But New York’s bench missed Rose’s presence. Alec Burks and Immanuel Quickley combined to shoot 4-for-16. Atlanta got a combined 31 points (8-for-10 3-point shooting) from Danilo Gallinari, Lou Williams and Kevin Heurter.

New York’s defense was subpar all night.