Knicks gearing up for arguably their most important game of the season against Hawks

Alexander Wilson
New York Knicks, RJ Barrett
Mar 11, 2020; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; New York Knicks guard RJ Barrett (9) drives against Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young (11) in the second quarter at State Farm Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks are firmly in the 5th seed in the Eastern Conference standings, just .5 games above the Boston Celtics and .5 games below the Atlanta Hawks, who are currently on a two-game win streak and are averaging 113.4 points per game, well above New York’s average of 106.2.

However, the Knicks are gearing up to take on Atlanta for the 4th seed on Wednesday evening, and thanks to their number one ranked defense, allowing 104.3 points per game, the Hawks will have themselves a serious competitor.

The Knicks have beaten the Hawks twice this season, with the last time coming on February 14 when Julius Randle posted 44 points and RJ Barrett 21. In their first matchup of the season, Randle had 28 points and Barrett 26. We can say confidently that the Knicks have an advantage over Atlanta, based on their previous two victories, but also their momentum currently having won their last seven games straight.

Mentality and fight is the way that point guard Derrick Rose describes this redefined Knicks team:

“Whoever we play against is the most important game because it’s next,” said Rose.

“I saw a winning mentality here,” he said. “Every team that’s playing against us knows it’s going to be a hard game, a hard-fought game, and you have to bring your best. Me seeing that from afar, I wanted to be a part of that.”

Coming off a demolition of the Charlotte Hornets by 12 points, the Knicks are flying high with incredible defense. They limited Charlotte to just 31 points in the second half, with their point production spread around the roster, including 24 for RJ Barrett and 17 apiece for Rose and Immanuel Quickley.

At the end of the day, this Knicks game against the Hawks represents an opportunity to steal a playoff spot that would guarantee them a place in the postseason and not a play-in game. While the majority would consider this the most important game of the year, Rose sees it as just another contest, and every game is just as important.

As the Knicks are five games above .500, and eight games behind Philadelphia and 7.5 behind Brooklyn, it is unlikely they catch the top two squads, but I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of giving the Milwaukee Bucks a run for their money for the 3 seed.