Alec Burks has done it several times already this season, earning a heat-check in the fourth quarter while either keeping the Knicks in a game or pushing them to another victory.
The veteran guard’s 18 points in the final session — and team-high 27 overall in 26 minutes — weren’t enough Sunday night, as Trae Young lifted the Hawks to a 107-105 Game 1 victory at the Garden with a last-second bucket.
“That’s how it happened. Give credit to them, Young hit a tough shot at the end of the game, but we fought hard,” Burks said after the game. “I’m proud of my teammates and the coaching staff. We’ll be ready for the next game.”
With Game 2 on Tuesday, the Knicks’ bench enjoyed a productive game, but couldn’t overcome a poor shooting night by the team’s starters, who combined to miss 36 of 54 shot attempts from the floor. That total featured a 12-for-38 shooting night by leading scorers Julius Randle and RJ Barrett.
Still, second-unit guards Burks, Derrick Rose (17 points) and Immanuel Quickley (10) combined for 54 points, more than half of the Knicks’ total. Burks nailed a left-corner 3 and knocked down another jumper in the final two minutes to give the Knicks a 103-100 lead with 1:11 remaining.
“I think the strength of our team is the depth,” said Burks, who averaged 12.7 points per game in 49 regular-season games. “We have a lot of players from top to bottom that can produce at any time, one to 15. I’m proud of them and I see it every day we’re definitely a deep team.”
Burks, one of the few players on the Knicks with postseason experience, said he was particularly impressed by rookies Quickley and Obi Toppin, who sparked the Knicks back from a double-digit deficit by combining for 13 points in the second quarter.
“They fought hard. I told them you can’t win or lose a series in one game,” Burks said. “It goes game by game. Just play hard. Don’t let your emotions get the best of you, you’ve been playing this game your whole life. Just keep going.”