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The Hawks made a concerted effort to push back at the Knicks after they felt they were “punked” in their Game 2 loss at the Garden.
Atlanta wing Kevin Huerter used that word to describe his team’s feisty mindset ahead of its 105-94 victory Friday night at State Farm Arena in Game 3 to grab a 2-1 lead in the first-round playoff series.
“Coming into the series, we couldn’t let them do that. We feel like the second half of Game 2, they got to their game and they kind of punked us a little bit and they got physical, and we didn’t respond in a great way,” Huerter said Saturday after the Hawks’ practice via Zoom. “Being back on our home court, we had to clean some stuff up.
“I’m not sure ‘punked’ is right, but the second half they were a little bit more aggressive than us. They got into us, they came out really physical. The first couple minutes in the second half, they came back with a couple of hard fouls, their screens. They’re guys that are used to being physical and they got into us physically. That was something that we saw on film and we didn’t want to let that type of thing happen again, coming into Game 3.”
Huerter, an Albany-area native, said the Hawks identified a pair of plays from the second half of Game 2 on film to illustrate their point: an uncalled elbow by Julius Randle to the face of Bogdan Bogdanovic and a foul called against Reggie Bullock for decking De’Andre Hunter.
“That’s playoff basketball, [but] we can’t let them be the only team that’s being physical like that,” Huerter said.
Soon after he entered Game 3, Huerter was assessed a Flagrant 1 foul with 2:52 left in the first quarter against Nerlens Noel.
“I never try to get a flagrant. I was trying to make a play on the ball, just trying to make it tough, not letting them getting an easy layup,” Huerter said. “The refs called it what it was and [Noel] made both free throws, but we’re trying to make them earn every basket.”
The 6-foot-7 wing added that the Hawks came into the series expecting the defense-minded Knicks to try to establish a physical identity. The Game 2 comeback only reasserted that scouting report.
“They play really hard, and they’re a team that can get after you just with their physicality and their effort and we couldn’t let them, one, push us around, and two, just be more intense than us at that end of the court,” Huerter said. “We had to match their intensity. That was something we came into the series talking about. That was the identity of their team.”
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