Westgate SuperBook Sports in Las Vegas plans to publish the Hawks as slight two-thirds favorites over the Knicks in their best-of-seven first-round series. And many NBA scouts are likely to agree the Hawks’ firepower is likely to be an excessive amount of for the Knicks’ rugged protection.
The Knicks personal a 3-0 regular-season series sweep and have home-court benefit, beginning with Game 1 both Saturday and Sunday. But the Hawks have celebrity level guard Trae Young surrounded by gifted perimeter shooters.
“Will their vaunted regular-season defense be such an important factor against a very offensively talented Hawks team?” one Eastern Conference scout advised The Post. “I’m choosing Atlanta. I’ve been a giant believer in the Hawks since Nate (McMillan) took over. They are the extra gifted workforce, particularly offensively.
“Philosophically, I believe that having more offensive, playoff-type weapons – guys who create one’s shot – gives them the an edge over a slogging offensive team that relies on defense like the Knicks.”
Of course, playoff magnificence is in the attention of the beholder. There’s a faction who swear protection and rebounding wins championships, although that bought staler with the prominence of the 3-point shot.
The Knicks led the league in 3-point protection (33.7 p.c). Atlanta has 3-point snipers in Bogdan Bogdanovic, Danilo Gallinari, upstate New York product Kevin Huerter and trade-deadline pickup Lou Williams. In addition, John Collins has emerged as a budding star once more as a “stretch 4.”
While the Hawks gamers have restricted playoff expertise, identical goes for the Knicks, whose engine is Julius Randle. The Knicks southpaw level ahead will play his first playoff recreation this weekend, in his seventh season. Randle averaged 37 factors in opposition to Atlanta in three video games, with two 40-point contests.
“The biggest concern still is who else will score late besides Randle,” the Eastern scout mentioned.
As spectacular a second season 20-year-old swingman RJ Barrett has weaved, he hasn’t all the time been a late-game sniper and has a streaky facet.
“RJ has had bad first halves a lot of the season,” one other expertise evaluator mentioned. “That could catch up to them. Randle and Barrett, are they going to hit the game-winner in a close game in the playoffs? We don’t know yet. I didn’t like what they looked like in the final five minutes vs. Boston (Sunday) with everything on the line. I’d bet Trae would. He’s fearless and Collins is a weapon that people don’t talk enough about. The Knicks can’t rely on a rookie, Immanuel Quickley, to bail them out late.”
The fourth-seeded Knicks (41-31) have been doubted – and resilient — all season. So that is one other case in level. But it needs to be famous in the final outing in opposition to the Hawks on April 22, with McMillan teaching, the Knicks have been trailing the Hawks by eight factors late in the third quarter. That’s when Young sprained his ankle after a collision with a Knicks middle Norvel Pelle, who contested his floater.
The Knicks rallied to win in time beyond regulation with Young in the locker room. Young nonetheless completed with 20 factors and 14 assists in his half-hour. The Hawks scored 39 factors in the primary quarter in that contest.
The Hawks have been a unique workforce below Lloyd Pierce, who coached in opposition to the Knicks in the primary two contests.
“It’s a young and hungry group with a great coach,” a Western Conference scout mentioned of Atlanta. “(McMillan) gets them to play hard and pay attention to detail. And they [have] shooters. Knicks are tough as nails, play hard and are always in games.”
If rebounding is tantamount, the Knicks must take care of Atlanta’s Clint Capela, who has battled foot issues the final month however is a monster on the boards. Not having middle Mitchell Robinson for this series may loom massive. Capela put up a 25-and-22 recreation in the prior assembly. Nerlens Noel is a terrific shot-blocker, however he and backup middle Taj Gibson lack bulk and measurement when going in opposition to huge facilities.
“Noel is going to have trouble with Capela if he’s healthy,” the NBA expertise evaluator mentioned. “Noel gets pushed around by bigger guys for rebounds. I’d worry about that.”
Another workforce government thinks the Knicks will pull it out with the arrogance of getting crushed the Hawks all 3 times.
“I think playing the Hawks puts them in a position of a favorite because of the regular season but they should be careful,” the manager mentioned. “The Hawks have a young dynamic team.”