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NBA Playoff Preview New York Knicks vs. Atlanta Hawks: The Return of the Growler

The playoffs are just around the corner and even if the final series in the play-in tournament are still to be played, we are already looking ahead. Today comes the preview for the duel between the New York Knicks and the Atlanta Hawks.

Here is an overview of all series.

New York Knicks vs. Atlanta Hawks: The starting point

It's not quite enough for the Spiderman meme, but with the Knicks and Hawks, two teams with some similarities meet in the first round. Both teams had the same record (41-31), both return to the playoffs after a long break (four for the Hawks, eight for the Knicks), both are led by a playoff debutant (Julius Randle, Trae Young). And both go into the postseason in their best shape.

Since April 1, the Knicks have had the fourth-best record in the NBA and have meanwhile won nine games in a row because they supplemented the strong defense with ever stronger shooting throughout the season - only the Nets shot better during this period! The Hawks, on the other hand, had the second-best record during this time.

Both teams also go into the playoffs almost healthy, which is not a given, especially in Atlanta. Cameron Reddish is missing there, otherwise coach Nate McMillan, who took over the team from the hapless Lloyd Pierce during the season, can draw on the full. His counterpart Tom Thibodeau has to do without Mitchell Robinson.

Speaking of Thibodeau. The legendary "Knurrer" has long exceeded all expectations in his debut season with the Knicks. New York was considered a team in the rebuild, instead it was now even enough for the home advantage. The Knicks live from the fight, defend with an intensity that only a few teams could counter in the regular season. But the team has also gotten stronger offensively.

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Randle is considered a favorite for the MIP Award, R.J. Barrett has developed enormously, but a turning point in this regard was the trade for Derrick Rose: The ex-MVP has flourished again under his old mentor Thibodeau and has been one of the best bankers in the league since his arrival. With Rose in the lineup, the Knicks are a whopping +10.6 points per 100 possession of the ball - there was criticism of the trade (here too), but Thibs managed to integrate Rose into the team alongside and not despite rookie Immanuel Quickley.

The Hawks also had such a turning point, even if it would be unfair to hold Pierce (balance: 14-20) solely responsible for the weak start. McMillan (27-11) certainly has a positive influence, but in fact the Hawks under him were simply healthier - and they benefited from the fact that Bogdan Bogdanovic got better and better over the course of the season.

Over time, the Serb has developed a good chemistry with Young, but also gets along very well as a solo entertainer and is on fire (43.8 percent threesome in 7.6 attempts). The two guards are the driving forces of a versatile and highly dangerous offense on their best days, in which Danilo Gallinari also finds his way much better than at the start of the season.

Even at the point differential, both teams were almost exactly on par, even if they got there by very different routes. The fact that the Knicks won all three games in a direct comparison has no meaning for John Collins: "That doesn't interest me at all. Now a new season is starting," said the Hawks-Big about the matchup.

New York Knicks vs. Atlanta Hawks: Facts and Figures

CurtseyHawks
Regular Season balance sheet41-3141-31
Offensive rating (place)110,7 (24)115,4 (9)
Defensive rating (place)108,4 (4)113,2 (17)
Net rating (place)+2,3 (11)+2,3 (12)
Direct comparison3-00-3

NBA Playoffs 2021: How the Knicks win the series

The recipe for the Knicks is quite simple: tough defense, little speed (no team played slower) and lots of Randle, who is the team's most important scorer and playmaker. With him, Barrett, Rose, Quickley, Reggie Bullock and Alec Burks, the Knicks have six three-shooters in the 40 percent range, and this precision will also be needed in the playoffs.

Apart from Randle and Rose, New York has very few players who can constantly create for themselves and others, which is particularly evident in the two-man division, where 28 teams had a better rate. The Hawks are not an excellent defensive team, especially when Clint Capela is not playing - the Knicks should somehow try to add to the Swiss foul trouble. Then more space should open up near the basket.

A lot of the defensive focus will be on Young. New York managed to keep it outside 33 percent in the regular season; in general, the plan should be to let him shoot more from outside and avoid fouls. However, Atlanta now has so many scoring options that a high level of defensive discipline is required from the entire squad.

The New York Knicks roster

Point guardShooting GuardSmall forwardPower forwardcenter
Elfrid PaytonReggie BullockR.J. BarrettJulius RandleNerlens Noel
Derrick RoseAlec BurksKevin KnoxObi ToppinTaj Gibson
Immanuel QuickleyFrank NtilikinaNorvel Pelle

NBA Playoffs 2021: How the Hawks win the series

The defense against Randle is the focus: In the three Knicks victories during the season, the All-Star put on 40, 44 and 28 points, but the Hawks did not have their perhaps best defensive option against Randle. De'Andre Hunter has now made his comeback in time for the playoffs after a long injury break and should see many minutes in a direct duel.

If Hunter can survive in a one-on-one against Randle to some extent, this would mean fewer double teams and thus less freedom for the remaining Knicks - possibly a decisive advantage, because offensively, as mentioned, these remain limited. If the swingman is not yet ready for this duel, Capela or Collins might have to try again.

Offensive, your own off-ball movement will be important. Especially under Pierce, but sometimes even afterwards, the Hawks tended to watch Young (or Bogdanovic) and move little off the ball, which would make it too easy for an excellent defense like the Knicks. The Hawks must use all of the weapons in their deep arsenal.

The Atlanta Hawks roster

Point guardShooting GuardSmall forwardPower forwardcenter
Trae YoungBogdan BogdanovicDe'Andre HunterJohn CollinsClint Capela
Lou WilliamsKevin HuerterTony SnellDanilo GallinariOnyeka Okongwu
Kris DunnSolomon HillNathan Knight
Bruno Fernando

Knicks vs. Hawks: who will win the series?

It's tight: The Hawks have the slightly lower squad, the Knicks have the home advantage (and at least 10 percent occupancy in Madison Square Garden). Thibodeau has a better playoff yield than McMillan, who lost 13 of his last 16 first round games with Indiana and only survived the first round (2005 with Seattle). However, it was relatively often against LeBron James.

Ultimately, nuances should decide in this duel. Do the Knicks get enough offense on the floor? How are Randle and Young doing on their playoff debuts? New York has recently performed strongly in close games and the MSG on its side. The fable season continues. Forecast: Knicks in 7th