Sports

Knicks clip Hawks in nasty battle for playoff position

It was a Knicks-Hawks battle for the fourth seed and home-court advantage, and it became a night of bloody carnage and overtime at the frenzied Garden.

Julius Randle scored 40 points and the Knicks (33-27) won their eighth straight game, posting a 137-127 victory Wednesday night before a wild crowd of 2,000 that was hyped right from the national anthem. The Knicks tied their longest winning streak since 2014, when they also won eight straight.

With their 3-point shooting frenzy, the Knicks survived the physical battle, which forced Hawks superstar Trae Young to miss the fourth quarter and OT.

More importantly, the Knicks moved into sole possession of fourth place in the Eastern Conference, which means if the season ended today, they would host a first-round playoff series. And it could be against these hot Hawks, which the Knicks swept 3-0 in the season series. There are a dozen games left before the Knicks’ first postseason since 2013.

Randle now has two 40-point outings against the Hawks this season. He scored two big baskets in the final 1:18 of the fourth quarter, but the Knicks couldn’t finish off Atlanta. Randle, however, dealt the Hawks the death blow in OT, draining a 3-pointer and dishing to Reggie Bullock (18 points) for another 3 to put the Knicks up by eight points with 2:30 left.

Nerlens Noel high-fives teammate Norvel Pelle during the Knicks' win Wednesday.
Nerlens Noel high-fives teammate Norvel Pelle during the Knicks’ win Wednesday.
NBAE via Getty Images

“It feels good, but we’re not done yet,’’ Randle said on the court after the thriller. “We knew we had to have it. We know what we’re fighting for at the end of the day. There was a lot of times we could’ve let go of the tope but we didn’t. We’re just a bunch of guys who bring a hard hat to every game.”

Before he left, Randle bellowed to the screaming crowd, “New York, we’re here!’’

Randle shot 6-for-8 on 3-pointers, while the Knicks drained 19 of 35 shots from beyond the arc on the night. Derrick Rose fouled out late in the fourth quarter, but finished with 20 points. Rookie Immanuel Quickley heated up from 3-point range (4-for-6 shooting) and finished with 20 points.

It was a violent game. The Knicks lost their two centers, Nerlens Noel and Taj Gibson, to bloody facial injuries, then their third-string center, Norvel Pelle, took out Young.

In the final minute of the third quarter, Young drove the lane and Pelle contested his shot, getting entangled and landing on Young’s foot. Young, who was wearing goggles to protect his injured right eye, fell to the court holding his left ankle, writhing and pounding the floor with his hand. Young was helped off the court by three of his teammates. He had 18 points and 10 assists by halftime (he finished with 20 and 14), schooling the Knicks.

The Hawks led by seven entering the fourth quarter, but had Brandon Goodwin running the point instead of Young, who was out after spraining his ankle.

Goodwin missed a free throw with 28 seconds left in regulation, and when Randle scored on a drive, the Knicks led by four points. But the Hawks rallied to send the game to overtime.

Inbounding with 8.4 seconds left, Bogdan Bogdanovic got some space with Bullock picked off and drilled a 3-pointer over Noel with 6.2 seconds to go to tie it. Randle’s 15-foot buzzer-beater missed.

Gibson was lost in the second quarter when he was smacked in the eye during a battle for a rebound and suffered a lacerated eyelid. Noel joined him midway through the third quarter when Atlanta’s star center Clint Capela elbowed him in the mouth after blocking a shot, crumpled to the court in agony. He left for the locker room, joining Gibson.

Noel returned in the fourth quarter to a big hand from the Garden crowd and had a big block late in the fourth and OT.

It was a fireworks frenzy in the first half, leaving the Knicks trailing the Hawks 69-67 as Young punished them.

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