ATLANTA — At the top, there have been exhausting fouls and a few exhausting emotions, just a few elbows and some shoves, and plenty of laughter on the other aspect of the ground. Opposite the Knicks bench, Spike Lee sat, chin in his palms, grim, glum, representing the followers again dwelling who by now had definitely opted for other tv decisions on a wet day.
Behind the Knicks, up on the mezzanine degree at State Farm Arena, a chant started in earnest.
“HAWKS! IN! FIVE!
HAWKS! IN! FIVE!
HAWKS! IN! FIVE!”
The last seconds tumbled off the clock, the ultimate rating of Game 4 — Hawks 113, Knicks 96 — etched into place ceaselessly. Before untucking his jersey and stalking off the ground, Julius Randle shook palms along with his teammates, providing phrases of encouragement. The last buzzer groaned.
And so did the Knicks’ season.
“We’ve got to fix this,” Tom Thibodeau mentioned, “and we’ve got to fix it fast.”
Things transfer at lightning pace within the NBA playoffs, which is one thing the Knicks coach has tried to evangelise for weeks. Concern turns into disaster turns into calamity, with disaster loitering across the nook, faster than you consider doable. The Knicks are three-quarters of the way in which by means of that horrible gauntlet. Whatever margin for error they owned — and it has all the time been Wheat Thins skinny — is gone.
They have officially entered the elimination portion of the calendar. It occurs that quick.
“We’ve been down the whole year,” Knicks middle Taj Gibson mentioned. “This is nothing new. We’re looking forward to the next game.”
It has been their feisty components all 12 months, and it has served them nicely, however this time the subsequent sport could possibly be the final sport. This time the primary tee time of summer time could possibly be ready on the other aspect of a 48-minute job Wednesday night time, Game 5 on the Garden, the Hawks taking part in fantastically and the Knicks having performed about 4 satisfactory quarters among the many 16 contested to date. They are operating out of quarters. They are operating out of video games.
They are operating out of season.
“Everything is on the table now,” Thibodeau mentioned. “Give us what you have.”
What the Knicks have — what could also be all they have left — is a season of testimony that argues they’re ceaselessly at their greatest when they’re about to be deserted. And make no mistake: They are basketball orphans now. It is unattainable to see how nicely the Hawks have performed throughout these 4 video games — how a lot better they’ve performed than the Knicks — and never assume the Hawks followers are on to one thing believing they gained’t be wanted for a Game 6 again right here subsequent Friday.
“I like our chances,” Julius Randle mentioned, earlier than modifying himself: “I love our chances.”
Those probabilities will probably be simpler to visualise if the glacial enhancements Randle made Sunday achieve momentum earlier than Wednesday. He nonetheless didn’t shoot nice (7-for-19) and he was nonetheless too careless with the ball (5 turnovers) however he did rating 23 and seize 10 rebounds and hand out seven assists, and that no less than approximates what he was throughout the season.
It can even be helpful if he will get some assist. Reggie Bullock and Immanuel Quickley missed all seven of the photographs they took, combining for zero factors. Alec Burks is capturing 30 p.c since his epic 27-point outburst in Game 1. The Hawks, in the meantime, could also be led by Trae Young however they have been getting large moments and large photographs from everybody.
“They are not a one-man team,” RJ Barrett mentioned, and he’s right, and he has seen it up shut because the Hawks have gained confidence each sport on this sequence, gained swagger, sufficient that it drew the ire of each Bullock and Randle late within the sport — sufficient the place if there was a penalty field within the NBA, they each would’ve spent the sport’s last minutes there.
“We had to let them know,” Randle mentioned, “that we’re not just accepting this [stuff].”
If the exhausting emotions translate to a greater efficiency Wednesday, keep in mind them. If it seems it was one last flare shot right into a darkish sky, do not forget that, too. The Knicks face steep odds and steeper historical past right here. NBA groups, all time, are 13-for-260 when dealing with a 3-1 deficit in a best-of-seven. The Knicks are 0-for-13; eight of these instances they expired instantly, in Game 5.
It would really feel fallacious for this crew, after this season, to dissolve that approach. But, then, nothing about this sequence appears to characterize something that got here earlier than.
“There’s resiliency to this team,” Thibodeau mentioned. “We have to fight back. And we will.”
They officially have no other choice.