ATLANTA — Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau sounded as if he will stick with Derrick Rose as starting point guard over Elfrid Payton after the veteran’s 30-point, 39-minute night Friday in Game 3 of the first-round playoff series against the Hawks, but also noted the maneuver didn’t do good by the bench.
Rose, who finished third in the voting for the NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award, was missing from the second unit for part of the Hawks’ 39-14 second quarter. Plus, Thibodeau noted the Hawks changed their bench rotation somewhat as an adjustment to Rose starting.
Rose played until early in the second quarter in a trio with Immanuel Quickley and Alec Burks. When he came out for a rest, Burks assumed much of the ballhandling. But neither Quickley nor Burks fared well as a backcourt tandem.
“That’s a big thing,’’ Thibodeau said. “It’s not only the offense, the defense — they changed their rotation with the second group as well. So those matchups will be critical. We have to contain the ball, we have to challenge the three, we have to finish with rebounding. The second quarter, we did not play well.’’
Thibodeau admitted his conversation with Payton was not easy. Payton’s mother even tweeted a sarcastic remark about the new starting five that didn’t have her son in it.
“How that Worked out for you! #ProudMama,” she wrote, posting a photo of the Knicks’ new starting five.
“You always have to do what you feel is best for your team,’’ Thibodeau said. “Sometimes it’s matchups. Elfrid’s a critical part of the team. He’s had a very good year for us. It’s just also, like, what we’re looking at, and what we think gives us our best chance right now.
“We’ve asked everyone to sacrifice and put the team first, and he’s done that. We have great veteran leadership and guys have sacrificed a lot, whether it’s starting, not starting, shots, rotation, not rotation. But this team has been a very together team from start to finish.’’
Thibodeau also started Taj Gibson at center, rather than a gimpy Nerlens Noel, in Game 3. Noel had a bounce-back performance with 12 points and eight rebounds off the bench.
“I feel it was great — we started the game off the way we wanted, finished the first quarter with the lead,’’ Gibson said. “It doesn’t matter, whatever Thibs wants me to do — come off the bench, play five minutes. Doesn’t matter. We got to find a way to come out with a ‘W.’ In the playoffs, there’s going to be a lot of adjustments. If Noel starts, it doesn’t really matter.’’
One of the keys to Atlanta’s rout in Game 3 was the resurgence of former Knicks lottery pick Danilo Gallinari, who shot just 3-for-16 from 3-point land in the first two games. Back in Atlanta, Gallinari drilled all four of his 3-pointers for 12 points in 23 minutes.
“I wasn’t just relying on my 3-point shots,’’ Gallinari said of the difference. “I was driving more to create for me and my teammates. The first two games I was just shooting 3s without being aggressive going to the basket.”
The Hawks blazed from the 3-point stripe, shooting 16-for-27 from beyond the arc. Gallinari figures the Knicks will try to be more aggressive in taking away the line.
“They’ll be more aware of our 3-point shots,’’ Gallinari said. “But the 3-pointer is something we have. We’re going to keep using it.’’