When the 10-win New York Knicks came to State Farm Arena to collide with the 19-win Hawks, the rules dictated that no matter the quality of basketball, someone had to win.
Begrudgingly, the Knicks (11-47) did so, pulling out a 106-91 victory that stopped no hearts on Valentine’s Day.
Three of the Knicks’ 11 wins on the season now bear the Hawks’ name. New York finishes with a 3-1 mark over Atlanta (19-39) in the season series. The win also snapped an 18-game skid for the Knicks, which goes into the books as the worst losing streak in franchise history.
A Trae Young blunder in the fourth quarter summed up the Hawks’ night. The rookie guard looked to have an easy basket after he got a steal off of a sloppy Knicks pass. With nothing but open court in front of him, Young slowed down as he approached the hoop, leaving the door open for Allonzo Trier to recover and pin his layup against the backboard.
“We played as if we assumed we were going to come out and win tonight,” Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce said. “We weren’t playing good basketball. We weren’t playing together, and we weren’t playing with effort.”
The Knicks did not look overly comfortable in the lead, but they retained it the entire game -- save for two brief ties in the second quarter -- after opening the game on a 14-0 run gifted by Atlanta missing its first 10 shots from the field.
“We can’t start the game the way we did and expect to come back and get a win,” Young said. “We just have to learn from it, get better and regroup after the All-Star break.”
Dewayne Dedmon led the Hawks with 21 points, including four 3-pointers. Young picked up 16 points and 11 assists. John Collins was very quiet with just eight points and one rebound.
Six Knicks went into double figures on the night, as Dennis Smith set the pace with 19 points and seven assists. DeAndre Jordan had a double-double, notching 10 points and 13 boards.
The Knicks’ lead stayed between eight and 12 points for most of the second half, with neither team able to capitalize on any extended runs.
Following a season-low 13 points in the first quarter, Atlanta’s pace helped even things out in the second period. By the half, the Hawks had taken 51 shots, nine more than the Knicks, and forced nine New York turnovers to their four.
The Hawks also hit six 3-pointers in the quarter to correct an 0-10 start behind the arc. After a 9-0 run with less than five minutes remaining in the second quarter, Atlanta finally evened the score at 47 at the 1:20 mark, but went into halftime trailing 54-51.
The lone highlight of the Hawks’ 13-point first quarter was a vicious left-handed poster dunk by Deandre Bembry, but even that seemed to be nothing more than a byproduct of pent-up anger taken out on a helpless rim.
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