Julius Randle got into a rhythm in the second half of this game but is still shooting a ghastly 24.1percent from the field via two contests. His playmaking has also seen a fall, averaging just 3.3 assists compared to 3.3 turnovers per game.
Nerlens Noel was admittedly nursing a foot injury that this series but has still been bested by the Hawks' Clint Capela in all three games. He is averaging only 5.3 rebounds and 0.7 blocks per game in the playoffs afterwards easily eclipsing all of those numbers from the regular season.
The group has needed a jolt of energy from their bigs to coincide with the superb play of Derrick Rose, and they got it in spades after the unexpected play of Taj Gibson and Obi Toppin.
Gibson was obtained in early January after Omari Spellman disappointed in training camp, with most expecting the 12-year veteran to become a player-coach who wouldn't observe any moments.
Toppin was the highly-touted 8th overall pick of the 2020 draft but immediately obtained a diminished role in the offense once Julius Randle began his breakout season. The beginner averaged the fewest minutes per game of any rotation member.
Now, the two unlikeliest players to help secure victories in a playoff series have done precisely that.
Even though Toppin's postseason averages of 5.7 points and 2.3 rebounds per game may seem unspectacular, they are anything but. Those numbers equate to 17.0 points and 7.0 rebounds per 36 minutes.
Toppin has also been excellent in the weakest aspects of the game this postseason: defense and intangibles. The newcomer is now extremely versatile on the glamorous end of this court and always seems like he is in the right place at the right time, a stark contrast to his numerous"deer in headlights" minutes from early on this season.
Toppin currently has the second-highest net rating of any Knick so far this series, and it is not hard to see why. He has instantly given a spark on both ends of the floor whenever he checks into the game, looking a great deal more like the player that fans expected to see if he was shot as a top pick last November.
Taj Gibson has also awakened alongside Toppin, making an impact in his 68th career playoff match. With Mitchell Robinson out with a foot break and Nerlens Noel hobbled with an ankle injury, the 35-year old played huge minutes in centre down the stretch of a vital home win.
Gibson was inserted into the starting lineup for the second half and performed tremendously, helping disrupt Trae Young's dangerous floaters and eliminating potential lobs to imposing Hawks center Clint Capela.
Gibson is averaging 7.3 rebounds so far this series, which are the highest amount out of each of his previous postseason runs. He's also shooting 58% from the field, taking advantage of any scoring opportunity that arises. It includes no surprise that Gibson was a +23 within their Game 2 success , the highest single-game plus/minus by any player on either team in the series up to now.
Perhaps his most underrated skill is his screen-setting ability. Virtually every Knicks highlight starts with an expert display from Gibson, as he basically eradicates the opposing shield from getting back in the play and enables Knicks ballhandlers like Derrick Rose to have a driving lane to the rim.
The New York Knicks were able to control the second half of Wednesday's game due to the contributions of Toppin and Gibson, who've proved that they can be trusted to provide quality postseason minutes. They should continue to show up and show out as the show moves to Atlanta, stepping up to assist New York procure a series-tying triumph.