The prevailing concept is the Hawks are the more gifted workforce than the Knicks. That considering led to preseason predictions the Hawks, after their large free company, could be a playoff workforce and the Knicks a bottom-feeder.
Seventy-two video games has not modified the sentiment, particularly with Atlanta hovering at a 27-11 clip since making the teaching change to Nate McMillan on March 1.
Knicks beginning middle Nerlens Noel, who embodies the Knicks’ grit, thinks “expertise’’ is within the eye of the beholder, as Tom Thibodeau’s Cinderella club hosts Sunday’s Game 1 of their first-round collection.
“I feel they will ponder it nevertheless they need to ponder it on expertise,’’ Noel mentioned by way of Zoom after Wednesday’s observe. “I feel we’re a workforce that performs collectively. I feel we have now expertise, interval. You don’t get to the NBA with out being an awesome participant. We simply need to carry it sport by sport and be the more gifted workforce that day — nevertheless you need to name it. I do know we’re going to carry the grit, the grind of New York-style basketball. And they’re going to carry Atlanta. So I feel we’ll be all proper on that facet.’’
Las Vegas odds have shifted backwards and forwards, with the collection veering towards a digital choose ’em affair. The groups completed with the identical file, 41-31, however the Knicks gained home-court benefit due to their 3-0 season-series sweep.
Two of these wins got here pre-McMillan and the third occurred after celebrity level guard Trae Young left the competition with an ankle sprain late within the third quarter with Atlanta main by 9.
The Hawks signed snipers Bogdan Bogdnavovic and Danilo Gallinari in free company whereas including NBA Sixth Man of the Year stud Lou Williams on the commerce deadline. Indeed, the Knicks do appear greater than the sum of their components.
“[We’re] only a assured workforce,’’ All-Star Julius Randle mentioned. “We know who we’re. We know what it takes to win. It’s actually simply so simple as that. We’ve been beneath fireplace, we’ve received the expertise as a workforce and we simply depend on one another. I’ve mentioned the ‘Big 15’ all 12 months. It’s actually that.’’
Thibodeau’s message to the membership for days has harped on the difference in intensity through the playoffs. Even for Thibodeau — who usually works late hours watching movie however steps it up for the playoffs, sources contend. Thibodeau might even go from his regular three cups of espresso to 5.
“You can inform, you realize he’s prepared for the problem at hand,’’ Noel mentioned. “He gave us two booklets, however it wasn’t as large as the start of the 12 months. We undoubtedly have been locked in on that, finding out their units. Especially for the younger guys, to have the ability to see this so early on of their profession, is undoubtedly main. To perceive what it takes to win a playoff collection, you perceive every little thing you must put into it, how a lot each little factor issues’’
The Knicks have been the NBA’s shock story. They led the league in a handful of defensive classes, together with opponents scoring common (104.7) and 3-point proportion (33.7 p.c). And in a shocker, they wound up third within the NBA in 3-point taking pictures proportion (39.2 p.c).
Have the Knicks maxed out with their expertise stage? Randle, who has put collectively arguably the perfect common season in Knicks historical past, says maybe not but.
“Definitely assume I can [be better],’’ Randle mentioned. “I undoubtedly assume I can enhance, already know the way I can enhance going into the playoffs. I undoubtedly assume I can do higher for positive. Is it vital? We’ll see, however I feel it will likely be. We’ve mentioned all 12 months, prepping for the playoffs, the depth stage is going to rise, the extent of play is going to rise. So I’m going to need to be higher. Everybody’s going to need to be higher if we need to accomplish what we need to accomplish.’’
Randle averaged 38 factors within the three video games towards the Hawks, together with two 40-point explosions.In a point-forward function, he completed the season with a statistical line no different Knick ever achieved — 24-plus factors, 10-plus rebounds, six-plus assists. The Knicks warrior registered six triple-doubles and led the NBA in minutes played, suiting up in 71 of 72 video games.
Randle averaged 38 factors within the three video games towards the Hawks, together with two 40-point explosions.
In a point-forward function, he completed the season with a statistical line no different Knick ever achieved — 24-plus factors, 10-plus rebounds, six-plus assists. The Knicks warrior registered six triple-doubles and led the NBA in minutes performed, suiting up in 71 of 72 video games.
Nobody wanted every week’s relaxation more than Randle, making his playoff debut at 26.
“For me, this week is vital,’’ Randle mentioned. “I’m doing every little thing — recovery-wise, caring for my physique — to verify that I’m as recent as potential heading into this collection. It’s clearly nice to have every week to organize. I’m making an attempt to do my finest to verify I’m prepared for the grind of the collection.’’
Randle doesn’t care about any numbers however “four” — the variety of victories to beat the Hawks.
“As far because the season, I suppose I’ll depart it as much as you guys,’’ Randle mentioned of the media. “Y’all can reward me or no matter you need to do. I’m actually simply centered on this workforce and doing what I gotta do to assist my guys win.’’