ATLANTA — The Knicks racked up 67 points in the first half, then pulled away in overtime for a 136-131 victory over the Hawks on Wednesday at State Farm Arena playing as if it were the last time the team would be competing this season.
And it might be.
While the game was still being contested the NBA announced it will suspend the season until further notice following Wednesday’s games because a Jazz player — reportedly center Rudy Gobert, who was on the injured report with an illness — preliminarily tested positive for coronavirus. The Jazz-Thunder game Wednesday in Oklahoma City was postponed seconds before its scheduled tipoff because of what was announced as “unforeseen circumstances.”
On March 4, as the Jazz beat the Knicks at the Garden, Gobert played 34 minutes, which has to be of concern to any players who faced him that night. He also played against the Celtics, Pistons and Raptors in the following days.
ESPN reported most teams wanted to continue playing the season minus fans — with the Knicks the only squad wanting to keep things status quo. A Knicks spokesman did not respond for comment. But that was before the first player tested positive.
Asked before facing the Hawks if he feared this would be the last game in front of a crowd, Knicks interim coach Mike Miller said: “If through our medical staff and the NBA we have different information then this is what we’re going to do then that’s what we’ll do.’’
Miller said he’s confident the Knicks, who will finish 21-45 if the season doesn’t resume, have been careful through the crisis and wasn’t worried.
“We trust our medical people,’’ Miller said. “We trust our staff, we trust the NBA staff, that they’re doing the research and I think it appears to me, I can only speak for us, but there’s a comfort in that. What they’re telling us is what we need to do. We’re going to follow that.’’
The Knicks blew a double-digit lead in the final 2:30 of regulation Wednesday, but never trailed after Julius Randle hit a 3-pointer early in the extra period.
Randle finished with 33 points and RJ Barrett had 26 to counter a game-high 42 (with 11 assists) by the Hawks’ Trae Young.
In the first half, Randle and Maurice Harkless combined for 23 points as the Knicks shot 55 percent to take a 67-50 lead. Atlanta veteran Vince Carter — possibly playing his final game if the season doesn’t continue — hit a 3-pointer shortly before the final buzzer and finished with five points.
Harkless was 5-for-8 from the field in the half and Mitchell Robinson was a force again inside, going 4-for-4.
In addition, second-year man Kevin Knox broke out of an offensive funk to score 11 first-half points, making all three of his 3-point attempts.
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