The New York Knicks have their opening contest against Atlanta Hawks at 7 PM on Sunday evening. After the Brooklyn Nets defeated the Boston Celtics on Saturday, the Knicks will have their opportunity to post a victory in game one at home.
After clinching the 4th seed, taking the spot from Atlanta, awarded them the first two games at home, but the Hawks will not be an easy opponent, as they have Trae Young, Bogdan Bogdanovic, and Clint Capela on the roster. I would be remiss not to mention John Collins or DeAndre Hunter.
Luckily, New York has one of the best defenses in the NBA, averaging 104.7 points per game allowed during the regular season, which ranks first place by more than 2.0 points.
Tom Thibodeau will have to be on his A-game, and consistency remains a priority for a Knicks team that has experienced a week off, which could theoretically disrupt their momentum. However, I believe the rest and time to rehabilitate before the postseason presents a major benefit.
Knicks Vs. Hawks score prediction:
Considering how the Knicks closed the season and their success against Atlanta this year, I believe they will emerge victorious in game one at home in front of 15,000 fans at MSG.
It will be a tight game throughout, but the Knicks will pull away by 8-10 points in the remaining moments, successfully closing out the win with fantastic defense and reliance on Derrick Rose at point guard. Rose is one of the only current Knicks to have playoff experience, having played over 40 games during elimination rounds.
I believe the final score will be 111-105, providing the Knicks with a huge game one victory and some essential momentum heading into game two.
Keys to victory for the Knicks:
1.) Elite defense
As aforementioned, the Knicks must play to their strengths, which remains an elite defense that focuses on being aggressive in the paint and closing out perimeter shooters. Of course, limiting Young will be the priority, considering he is averaging 25.3 points and 9.4 assists per game.
Personally, I wouldn’t hate to see Frank Ntilikina on him frequently instead of Elfrid Payton. Thibodeau did mention that Ntilikina will earn more playing time against Atlanta. I imagine for this reason exactly.
2.) Solid 3-PT shooting
The Knicks have really picked up their three-point shooting over the second half of the year, and it was a necessity if they wanted to become a playoff-caliber team. They ended up shooting 39.2%, attempting 29.9 per game. After starting the year poorly, they catapulted themselves into the top three in the league, just behind the Brooklyn Nets and LA Clippers.
They must continue this impressive streak of shooting if they want to beat Atlanta. Ultimately the long ball is an essential factor in today’s NBA.
Of course, one of the more important factors remains consistency, especially on defense. The Knicks occasionally give up small spurts of scoring, and they must limit those shifts in momentum if they want to take down Atlanta. With a team containing multiple elite scores, stopping them from stringing together positive drives is a catalyst.
Offensively, I imagine the Knicks might start off slow based on the atmosphere and jitters involved, but they will ease their way into the game and begin to feed off the crowd.