Down 13 points, the New York Knicks needed a change in the second half beyond starting Derrick Rose.
They needed the Julius Randle they saw in the regular season.
Rose scored 26 points, Randle shook off a miserable first half to lead a third-quarter turnaround and the Knicks defeated the Atlanta Hawks 101-92 on Wednesday night in Game 2 to tie the series.
Randle was 0 for 6 with just two points at halftime. But with Rose moving into the starting lineup to open the third quarter, Randle made a 3-pointer to start the period and scored 11 points on 4-for-5 shooting as the Knicks surged into the lead.
“Obviously we were disappointed with the way we played in the first half, but I knew in the second half there’d be great fight and there was,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said.
“And I think Julius hitting that shot, Julius is not going to go away. He’s going to keep coming. He’s got a great will, great determination and he’s a fighter.”
The winner of the NBA’s Most Improved Player award concluded with 15 points and 12 rebounds despite another poor shooting night. He was 5 for 16 after going 6 for 23 in the opener.
But he came through with it counted along with Reggie Bullock, who made four 3-pointers in the second half and also had 15 points as the Knicks guaranteed there will be at least one more home game in this surprising season.
“Obviously, throughout the game there’s going to be frustrations, but we know who we are as a team,” Randle said. “We’re never going to doubt whether we can win a game or not.”
Trae Young scored 30 points for Atlanta after having 32 and hitting the tiebreaking shot with 0.9 seconds left in Game 1. Bogdan Bogdanovic and De’Andre Hunter added 18 apiece.
Game 3 is Friday night in Atlanta, where the Hawks will be permitted to welcome a full capacity crowd for the first time this campaign.
“I hope Atlanta’s ready to bring that energy and I hope it’s loud and I hope everybody’s excited to have playoffs back in the A,” Young said, “and I’m ready to play back inside that arena in front of those fans. So it’s going to be fun.”
Rose made the basket that gave the Knicks the lead for good at 93-91 with 4:45 to play and kick off a decisive 9-0 run. He played 39 minutes as Thibodeau stuck with one of his most trusted players to keep the series — and maybe season — from slipping away.
Young stamped himself as a villain figure for Knicks figures by holding his finger to his lip after his winning shot Sunday to tell them to quiet down.
The profane chants that were aimed at Young in Game 1 started before the Hawks were even on the court for warmups and he was loudly booed every time he touched the ball early on.
He got hot late in the second quarter from inside and outside — way outside. He pulled up from 30 feet for a 3-pointer, made a reverse layup, a jumper and another 3-pointer in a 12-1 run that made it 57-42 in the final minute of the half.
Atlanta led by 12 midway through the third before Randle helped power a 16-2 spurt by picking up his aggression after playing passively. His jumper after consecutive 3-pointers by Bullock capped the surge and made it 74-72 with 1:45 left in the period.
New York led 88-78 with 8:34 to play but Young checked back in to lead a 13-3 burst that tied it at 91 when he threw a lob to Clint Capela.
Thibodeau kept his normal starting lineup, even though he had pulled struggling point guard Elfrid Payton after about four minutes in each half in Game 1 and never reinserted him either time.
Payton lasted just over five minutes this time before the Knicks called time after Atlanta’s 11-0 run and inserted Rose. Meanwhile, Randle had two airballs in his first three shot attempts.