Julius Randle wasn’t the only Knicks starter looking to bounce back Wednesday night from a Game 1 clunker.
Starting small forward Reggie Bullock caught fire from the outside in the second half, nailing four key 3-pointers after missing his first six attempts over the first six quarters of the series. His hot hand helped propel the Knicks to a 101-92 Game 2 win over the Hawks at the Garden.
Bullock also guarded Hawks star point guard Trae Young for much of the second half.
“He’s an unsung hero for our team,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said after the game. “His defense. His shooting. I think just having more shooting on the floor helps Julius.
“So now you got to play him honestly, and that changes things. But I think his size is a big plus. And then with Young, he’s a great player. So there’s no one steady anything that’s going to stop him, so you got to make him work for his points. They have a lot of shooting around him and it requires great effort on every play.”
Bullock became a reliable long-range threat late in the regular season, but he clanked all five of his 3-point attempts and finished with just six points in the Knicks’ 107-105 loss in the series opener Sunday night.
After he played just 29 games in an injury-plagued first season with the Knicks in 2019-20, Bullock emerged as a prototype “3 and D” wing this season, averaging 10.9 points per game while shooting 41 percent from long distance. In the Knicks’ final 17 games, however, his numbers rose to 14.2 points and 44.2 percent from long distance, while logging 36.4 minutes per appearance.
While Randle was held to 15 points on 6-for-23 shooting in Game 1, Bullock finished 3-for-9 from the field, including the five misses from beyond the arc.
“It was only five 3s that I missed. I shot so many over my career, I can’t worry about those five,” Bullock said before Wednesday’s game. “I just have to continue to go back out and shoot that same shot and be more locked in. I’m up for the challenge.”
Bullock missed his first attempt from long distance in the first half Wednesday, but his first two 3-pointers in the third quarter tied the score at 72, and he added two more in the fourth.
“It helps open up driving lanes for our drivers — any one of us shooting the ball from the outside, knocking down shots,” Bullock said after the game. “It gives a chance for our drivers to get all the way to the hole, look for lobs, and just being able to space the floor for the other great players on the team. When I see one go down, it gives me the confidence to keep shooting it.
“My teammates were finding me and I was confident in shooting the basketball tonight.”