ATLANTA — There was no way to mince words after this heartbreaker — with the Knicks so close to completing their “Drive for Five.”
They had rallied from a 16-point hole early in the fourth quarter Sunday to force overtime, then led by eight points in the first OT. The Knicks collapsed as Atlanta’s superstar Trae Young was just too great.
The Hawks forced a second overtime and outlasted the Knicks, 140-135, at State Farm Arena in a thriller as Young finished with 48 points — hitting 35-foot 3-point bombs, drives of all sorts and all 16 of his free throws.
And there went the Knicks’ chance of posting their first five-game winning streak since the 2013-14 season as they try to change the narrative of a lost season.
“It’s tough, it hurts,’’ said Wayne Ellington, who finished with 14 points. “Everybody is upset. We all wanted to keep on going, keep on winning. But we go back to the drawing board and we learn from it. I was telling guys after the game, shoot, it’s hard to win five in a row in this league, no matter what type of team you’re on, who’s on your team or what’s going on. It’s hard to win five in a row in this league. And we were right there.’’
The sensational fourth-quarter comeback, aided by Julius Randle, Mitchell Robinson and Reggie Bullock, who finished with 21 points, went all for naught.
Randle hit two clutch free throws with 30 seconds left in regulation to tie the score and finished with 35 points and 18 rebounds.
Robinson was brilliant in scoring 15 points (7 of 8 from the field) with 11 rebounds, three blocks and three steals.
“I’m proud of my guys that we continue to fight,’’ Randle said. “We were down  in the fourth, on the road, second night of a back-to-back. We come here and play two overtimes and really give us a chance to win. We felt we should’ve won and let it slip away.’’
The Knicks were up eight points with 1:30 left in the first OT but didn’t score again in that five-minute period. Young scored eight points in that stretch as the Knicks committed a 24-second violation. Then the killer came when Elfrid Payton traveled with 11.6 seconds left to give the Hawks the ball down two.
Young drove to the basket and picked up the foul on Payton. Young made both free throws to force a second overtime. A desperation 3 at the buzzer by Payton never reached the rim.
Young scored 17 points in the two overtimes.
“Those longs ones, when he pulls up and shoots it, you live with those,’’ interim coach Mike Miller said. “It’s the 16 free throws is what’s difficult. We didn’t take away the paint [from him].’’
And after grabbing the eight-point lead, the Knicks froze.
“It was part defense but we had to score during that, too,’’ Miller said. “We got a little conservative with the lead, waited late in the clock before we attacked.”
In the second OT, Payton and Robinson hooked up on a pick-and-roll which ended with the center slamming home a pass to him at the rim. Robinson missed the free throw but the Knicks had a two-point lead. Then they folded again.
The Hawks roared back to score nine straight points to take a 136-129 lead with two minutes left in the second OT. The Knicks rallied as Atlanta’s Kevin Huerter was called for a travel and the Knicks had a chance to tie but Payton missed on a 3-pointer with 30 seconds left.
“I wish we could’ve gotten this one and went home feeling a little bit better,’’ Randle said. “But we fought extremely hard. I’m proud of our guys. We’ll get another chance Wednesday.”
The Knicks (17-37), who led by 15 points early in the second quarter, play their last game before the All-Star break at the Garden against Washington.
Miller’s club is 6-6 in its last 12 games and has moved to the periphery of a playoff race despite all that’s happened — the firings of the head coach and team president and the trading of their best player, Marcus Morris.
They are 5 ½ games out of the eighth spot in the wretched East. Asked if he’s looked at the standings, Randle said, “Yeah it’s inevitable. When you look at it, that’s the goal. I’m proud of that we take every game to win. It shows the maturity of our team — having a singular focus on every game. That’s how you get a winning streak.”
Although that finally has ended.