Julius Randle had a strong performance, scoring 24 points with nine assists and six rebounds. RJ Barrett continued to play well, going for a team-high 26 points with five boards and three assists. Thibs spoke about their two key players’ performances, and what he saw from the team’s defense throughout the game.
“I thought the two man game with he and Alec [Burks] was really good, I thought Julius made great reads all night long, and that got us going,” Thibodeau said. “You can’t say enough about the way RJ is playing also. When those guys are aggressive like that it opens things up. I thought the rebounding was a big factor.
“Defense in the first half was really good. I thought once we got up early in the third, when we got up 17 we sort of got loose, and you can’t do that in this league. You get loose against a good offensive team which they are, they can chop 10 points off in a minute and they did. Then you’re fighting for your life, and that’s what we did.”
The Knicks led 65-51 at the half, and the lead grew to 17 points at one point in the third. Atlanta mounted a comeback heading into the fourth quarter, as a Danilo Gallinari three cut the New York lead to just eight points.
The Hawks outscored the Knicks 26-20 in the third quarter, thanks to eight points in the quarter from Trae Young. The young guard finished the game with 29 points on 11-for-23 shooting, going just 4-for-12 from beyond the arc.
Thibodeau went on to talk about the bench unit’s play on Saturday night, as the team only played a total of nine players. Quentin Grimes was perfect from the floor shooting and scored eight points in 16 minutes. Taj Gibson had seven points in 17 minutes of action.
“We got to get the bench going, I thought Quentin gave us really good minutes and Taj gave us good minutes,” Thibodeau said. “We got to have the group play well. I thought their bench hurt us. We need everyone playing well, just come with that edge. I thought bench played well in the first half, and we didn’t play as well as we could have in the second.”
Thibodeau then touched on the rotation on Saturday night, saying the team has to manage with who is currently available and is looking forward for everyone to be back and healthy.
“You make your decisions based on the people you have available, but we’ll see when we get guys back,” Thibodeau said. “We’re always going to do what’s best for the team, period. Whatever gives us the best chance to win, that’s what we have to do so everyone’s got to sacrifice. I want us to be at full strength. I think that gives us our best chance. Hopefully we can get Kemba [Walker] back soon and we can get Derrick [Rose] back and be ready to roll.”
The Knicks are now a game above .500 with a 22-21 record, as they’re currently on a three-game win streak and are “building pretty good chemistry off each other.”
“The big thing is each day keep improving, it’s a long season,” Thibodeau said. “I think getting comfortable with, ok, we can play this starting lineup, we can play a different starting lineup, we got bench guys. I think guys are building pretty good chemistry off each other. I think the defense for the most part has been pretty good over this stretch.
“You never have it all figured out, you got to keep that edge. Everyday you got to keep making your deposits, you got to practice well, you got concentrate, and you can’t let your guard down.”
Source: Yahoo Sports