Atlanta opens as 4.5 point favorites over the visiting New York Knicks
The Knicks and Hawks will conclude their three game season series tonight in Atlanta. This will serve as a rubber match between these teams since both squads have already won one game head-to-head. The Knickerbockers won the first matchup against the Hawks all the way back in December by a final score of 143-120. The Knicks took a commanding lead in the first quarter of that game and led the Hawks the rest of the way through. Trae Young was brilliant as always, recording 42 points on a night where he was 7-13 from beyond the arc. However, the Knicks had too much firepower for Atlanta to handle. Three players put up at least 20 points in the game, including rookie first round draft pick RJ Barrett who had a then career-high 27 points on a night where he went 10-13 from the field. The next head-to-head game these teams played was much closer. Last month, the Hawks won a double overtime thriller against the Knicks by a final score of 140-135. Trae Young had a 42 point-13 assist double-double, while Atlanta’s John Collins also recorded a double-double of his own (32 points, 16 rebounds). Offense has clearly not been an issue in these head-to-head match-ups, and I don’t expect that to change tonight.
Despite the potential for a high-score, neither one of these teams is all that good. The Knickerbockers are currently the 25th ranked team in the NBA season standings with a record of 20-45. Just yesterday, the Knicks fell to the Washington Wizards on the road by a final score of 122-115. Somehow, the Atlanta Hawks are even worse than the Knicks though. With a 20-46 record, Atlanta is currently the 27th ranked team in the league. With that being said, neither one of these squads have been all that terrible in recent outings. The Hawks are actually 7-7 over their last 14 games. Meanwhile, New York is 7-9 over its last 16 games. Considering these teams have 40 combined wins, you almost have to tip your hat to these franchises for winning seven games apiece during these recent stretches of games. With all that in mind, I am leaning towards the Hawks winning tonight.
Atlanta’s best players have balled out against the Knicks this year. Trae Young has been unreal when facing off with the New York Knicks. The second year guard out of Oklahoma is averaging, wait for it, 45 points per game on almost 50% shooting in the two match-ups he has had against the Knicks! On top of that, he is also averaging 10.5 assists per game, practically guaranteeing that he will have a double-double in tonight’s game. Also, John Collins was excellent in the lone game he played against the Knicks, going for 32 points and 16 rebounds. First round draft pick Deandre Hunter has been pretty good against the Knickerbockers too, averaging 19 points and seven rebounds in two games against New York. You can expect these guys to give the Knicks everything they can handle when these teams face off tonight.
When all is said and done, I expect Atlanta’s role players to step up and have success against the Knicks. Just look at New York’s most recent game, a 122-115 loss to the Wizards. In that one, New York was unable to contain Bradley Beal who scored 39 points while five other players had double-digit scoring outputs for Washington! I think tonight’s game against the Hawks will be similar. New York will focus all of its energy on trying to stop Trae Young, but they will be ineffectual and that will allow Atlanta’s other players to get good looks at the basket and be effective. I think the Hawks just barely cover the 4.5 point spread, but they still manage to get it done on their way to their 21st win of the season.