Trae Young and the Hawks have fully earned their first chance to close out the Knicks in the arena whose denizens famously —— told him what they thought of him at the start of this first-round playoff series.
Young continued to be the best player on the floor by a wide margin in Sunday’s Game 4, with 27 points, nine assists and only two turnovers into move one win from advancing to the second round.
“Obviously, we’re excited that we won a game, but we know that the job isn’t done until the series is over,” Young said. “For us, we still have that same mentality, that same approach and try to go to New York and finish it there.”
Young’s supporting cast again played its roles effectively for the second straight game at State Farm Arena, including ex-Knick Danilo Gallinari scoring 21 points and John Collins netting 22 most of those before going into the locker room for stitches in his mouth in the third quarter following an elbow to the face by Julius Randle.
Young noted that he’s been “very impressed” with how Collins and the rest of his teammates have handled the Knicks’ physical play in sweeping their two home games after coughing up a 13-point halftime lead in Game 2 in New York. Hawks wing Kevin Huerter had said Saturday they felt as if the Knicks had “punked” them during their lone loss of the series.
“I love it, I felt like from the very start we came out with a mindset that we weren’t going to let the physical game get to us,” Collins said. “I feel like we matched their physicality as well as played our game.
“I felt like the ball was moving tonight, as well as the crowd, I feel like all aspects were hitting for us and we were just trying to take advantage of it and win the game. I feel like the sky’s the limit with this team when we do the right things.”
Randle and the Knicks clearly have shown frustration by the pushback they’ve received from their opponents. The All-Star forward committed a Flagrant 1 foul in the closing minutes on Gallinari, after Reggie Bullock had run toward the Hawks’ bench during a previous stoppage. Young and Taj Gibson also jawed at each other in the first half.
“I play with excitement, I play with fun. I don’t talk mess, but if you want to talk to mess with me, I’m with it,” Young said. “It’s basketball. It’s fun. It’s competitive, I love it. Taj is the type of player you don’t want to go up against, but you love him if he’s on your team. So I love it. This is a fun series, this is a lot of excitement. It’s just basketball.
“And I’m just trying to keep it about basketball. I don’t care if they’re in their feelings or who’s mad or who’s not. It’s basketball at the end of the day, and we’re just trying to win. All of the extra stuff, it is what it is. We’re locked in and we’re focused on us and trying to win a game.”
They need one more to extinguish the Knicks, beginning Wednesday at the Garden. Game 6, if necessary, would be back in Atlanta on Friday night.
“As I told our guys, [Game 5] will be the hardest game of the series, to close a team out,” Hawks coach Nate McMillan said. “Because we know they’re gonna come out and they’re gonna fight.
“I expect it to be physical, I expect both teams to come with urgency, and you know it will be the hardest game of the series.”