Hawks are having a grand time at expense of Knicks’ Randle

Four minutes left in the third quarter of Friday’s Game 3 of the Hawks’ playoff series vs. the New York Knicks. A revved-up rabble inside State Farm Arena. Julius Randle, the Knickerbocker voted most likely to fricassee the Hawks before all this began, at the free-throw line.

It was time to mock. What course would this crowd take, given the dockworker tone of this series? To their credit, the Atlanta mob chose to go old-school rather than lower themselves to New York-style potty mouth.

“Overrated! Overrated! Overrated!” they chanted.

And that wasn’t in the top 10 of bad experiences for Randle Friday during the Hawks’ 105-94 victory. As he said afterward, “I don’t deal with the crowd, I just worry about what’s going on, on the court.” And on the court, what’s going on for Randle is getting to be embarrassing.

ExplorePhotos: Hawks take Game 3

In three regular-season games against the Hawks, the Knicks’ point forward torched them for an average of 37.3 points a game. He’s been lucky to total that much (struggling to 44, actually) through these first three playoff games.

Contrast the numbers between the three warm-up contests – here listed first – to these last three that really matter:

Field-goal percentage: 36-of-62 (58.1%) to 13-of-54 (24%).

3-point shooting: 13-of-26 (50%) to 6-of-20 (30%).

Rebound total: 37 to 35 – the one area Randle is still a factor.

Assists: 20 to 10.

Scoring average: 37.3 to 14.6.

Is Randle frustrated? He should be frustrated. Friday’s game – in which he made just two of 15 shots, both 3-pointers – was a steadily compounding succession of miseries for the man. Finished off in the final two minutes by getting his shot blocked by Clint Capela – who marked the moment by reviving the Dikembe Mutombo finger wag – and then missing one last 3-point heave.

“I really don’t care (if he’s frustrated),” said Hawks forward John Collins, one of a team of specialists assigned to making Randle’s life miserable. “I hope so.”

Give the Hawks credit for building a fence around Randle, throwing various combinations of bodies at him that have thus far cut him off from any easy rushes at the basket. And he hasn’t really been forcing the issue, getting to the free-throw line at less than half the rate in this series than in the three regular-season games (14 to 33).

Randle himself was saddled with foul trouble Friday that kept him – almost mercifully – out for much of the fourth quarter. Two of the five fouls against him were offensive, as he rammed unsuccessfully into the Hawks defense.

“Whether we’re frustrating him or not,” said Hawks coach Nate McMillan, “we’ve started (De’Andre Hunter) on him and just tried to get pressure on him, not allow him to walk to his spot or get to his spot out on the floor.

“I thought he did a solid job. We had to switch ‘Dre onto (Knicks guard Derrick) Rose. Then (Collins) did a solid job of just making him work, staying in front of him, denying his catch, forcing his catch out from the basket. Made him go over the top, not allowing him to attack and get to the free-throw line.”

Hawks 105, Knicks 94 (box score)

The close of the first quarter might have given Randle and the Knicks reason to turn it all around Friday. Getting the ball with just more than a second left in the quarter, Randle hit the first of his two 3s, that put New York up by two. But the Hawks refused to allow him to build any momentum from there.

More lasting were scenes like Randle trying to drive to the basket, denied, and then passing off the ball as the shot clock blared.

Or finding himself on Hawks guard Trae Young, getting toyed with off the dribble before Young delivered an ally-oop to Capela.

“We turned up the intensity, the physicality. My mentality a couple other guys’ mentality has definitely changed,” Collins said.

“Definitely the things we needed to change from a baseline level have been changed,” Collins added.

For his part, Randle was also short on long-range answers.

“We just gotta adjust. Just gotta adjust. And we will,” he said.