The Knicks have been sent “on vacation,’’ as Hawks center Clint Capela promised.
The Knicks weaved a wonderful 41-31 regular season, but the Hawks proved it to be an inflated ledger in taking them out in five.
Atlanta outclassed the Knicks all series, eliminating them with a 103-89 victory Wednesday at the Garden in Game 5.
Capela was a huge factor in wiping the glass with 14 points and 15 rebounds, and shoving them into an offseason of potential promise with $60 million of cap space and two first-round picks. The Knicks missed injured center Mitchell Robinson in the series.
The Garden crowd showered the Knicks with a standing ovation in the final 50 seconds.
“I told our guys this, I’m proud of what our team accomplished this year,’’ said Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau, who broke the Knicks’ seven-season playoff drought. “Obviously disappointed with the result tonight. Hopefully we can learn and get better from it. But I thought our guys gave us everything they had all year long. I’m very proud of them. Hopefully we can take this and use it as motivation for the work we have to get done in the summer in preparation for next year.’’
All-Star Julius Randle capped his wayward first playoff series with eight turnovers and 23 points while shooting just 8 of 21 and playing extremely poorly in the second half.
“They had a great scheme, played extremely well, shot the ball well,’’ Randle said. “But we brought a brand of basketball back the city could be proud of. We have something to build on for the future. It’s tough to process it now the way things ended but we’ll be back.’’
A defiant RJ Barrett predicted in the morning the Knicks were heading back to Atlanta for a Game 6, saying, “We’re winning tonight.’’
But Barrett didn’t make good on the guarantee. Barrett scored 17 points and shot 5 of 14. He was outplayed in the series by Hawks forward De’Andre Hunter, who was selected one pick after him at No. 4 in the same 2019 draft. Hunter hit a 3-point dagger with 5:43 left putting Atlanta up 19.
“I’m proud of us laying a foundation for the future and getting the Knicks back on the right track,’’ Barrett said.
The Knicks lost three straight games in the series once Derrick Rose was anointed starting point guard over Elfrid Payton. The 32-year-old had no spring Wednesday and finished with just six points on 3 of 11 shooting and admitted he got banged up in Game 4 in Atlanta, when he petered out in the second half. Rose didn’t play in the fourth quarter Wednesday.
“I had some knick-knack injuries from last game,’’ Rose said. “I got hit in the knee. Just didn’t feel right. Thibs decided not to play me in the fourth.’’
Rose expressed a desire to return next season but said the team could have “bigger plans’’ and hardly would guarantee it. Thibodeau stuck to his point guard rotation and let Payton and Frank Ntilikina rot on the bench for the final three games of the series.
The Hawks were up 52-47 at halftime before taking control. The teams squabbled before heading off the court for the intermission. Knicks center Nerlens Noel and Hawks big man Solomon Hill got into it, jawing and shoving before a mass of bodies intervened.
Randle and Noel picked up technicals for the Knicks, with Hill getting one for the Hawks. The bad blood between these teams was pure, but at the final buzzer there was only hugs amid the players.
After the final buzzer, Rose had a talk with Trae Young, who punctuated his brilliant series with 36 points and nine assists.
“I think the mood of the team — it’s a great group of guys, top to bottom. And as could be expected, the disappointment of losing a playoff series. But I think they know that they’ve given everything that they have,’’ Thibodeau said. “Everyone doubted them all year, they didn’t doubt themselves. So there was great belief.’’
The Hawks imposed their will on the Knicks in the third quarter and took a 12-point lead into the final frame, 74-62.
The Garden crowd was back chanting “F–-k Trae Young’’ in the first quarter and “Trae Young’s balding’’ in the second quarter. Young wasn’t his usual accurate self, shooting just 10 of 28, but he drew a ton of fouls and controlled the game’s tempo, His Hawks will face the 76ers in Round 2.
Meanwhile, the Knicks were bounced on the 21st anniversary of the last time the team played a game in June. They were eliminated in six games by the Pacers on June 2, 2000, in the Eastern Conference finals.
They still have a ways to go before they are getting that deep in the playoffs.
“This was their first run to the playoffs so there’s learning that goes along with it,’’ Thibodeau said. “Trial and error is a big part of learning until you get that experience. And there’s only one way to get experience is you have to get it. It’s a big part of learning and hopefully we can take that moving forward.’’