Trae Young #11 of the Atlanta Hawks controls the ball...

Trae Young #11 of the Atlanta Hawks controls the ball during the first half against Quentin Grimes #6 of the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022 in New York City. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Trae Young came into Madison Square Garden with a message, sneakers in Knicks blue and orange with the inscription “King of Broadway.” Maybe sometimes, but not on this night.

With the Knicks struggling to find their footing this season much of the blame from fans has been placed on the coach, Tom Thibodeau, who is well accustomed to the pressure.

But as the heat has grown, Thibodeau opted this week to make a change, refining the rotation and minutes to reflect the priority he has always placed on defense. If he is going to be blamed anyway he’s at least going to do it his way. And that way is with an emphasis on defense. And Thibodeau’s style won out over Young’s fashion sense as the Knicks beat the Hawks, 113-89, on Wednesday night.

The change began Sunday when he dropped Cam Reddish and Derrick Rose completely from the rotation, following suit to a move earlier this season to put Evan Fournier on the bench. Now, with Quentin Grimes in the starting lineup, he has limited the backcourt subs to Immanuel Quickley and Deuce McBride.

It was Grimes who was tasked with defending Young and he did a reputable job, limiting him to 19 points on 9-for-20 shooting with four turnovers. And Grimes outdid him on the offensive end, too, scoring a season-high 23 points, including one stretch as the Knicks built their lead when he hit a three, shut down Young trying to drive to the rim and then hit another three on the other end.

“I think you can see the combination of the way [Grimes] plays defense and he’s starting to get his rhythm on offense,” Thibodeau said. “He shoots the three, he reads close-outs well. And I thought Deuce gave us really good minutes defensively as well. And I think that’s important for us. Every night there’s going to be guys on the perimeter that are very difficult to guard. So the better we guard the ball, the better that makes us.”

The Hawks were shorthanded entering the night without John Collins or DeAndre Hunter, and they lost Dejounte Murray to a sprained left ankle 3:34 into the game. But after surrendering only 81 points against Cleveland Sunday the Knicks again clamped down with Grimes leading the way.

Julius Randle contributed 34 points and 17 rebounds and RJ Barrett and Isaiah Hartenstein dove on the floor for loose balls as the Knicks blew the game open.

“I think we just put a whole 48 minutes together,” Grimes said. “I feel like the game before against Cleveland we kind of were good the first half, a good second half. The last two games we’ve put together a full 48 minutes of good basketball.”

There certainly may be more changes to come than a lineup tweak. The Knicks have been shopping nearly everyone on the roster, but most ardently looking to move Reddish, Fournier and Quickley.

“I don’t think you ever have it all figured out,” Thibodeau said. “I think each day is different, so hopefully we’re building the right habits. That’s the whole goal, is to improve every day. We’re getting more information on who works well together, how the team functions, and the most important thing is how the team functions. So, that has to be first and foremost for everyone.”

A Daily News report Wednesday said that the team was working with Reddish’s representatives to find a new opportunity for him, but that is still easier said than done.

The Hawks worked with Reddish last season to try to accommodate his wishes for a larger role, but when the Knicks were the only team that would bite on the asking price of a first-round pick they shipped him to New York and he was buried in a lesser role than in Atlanta. He is a restricted free agent at season’s end, so he has a stake in proving himself now.

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