One of the biggest toss-ups of the first round of the NBA playoffs is a Knicks vs Hawks series that matches up two of the best stories of the season. I don’t see either of these teams as having championship potential, but one of them is going to wind up in the second round. For New York, their defense-first approach has them in the playoffs for the first time 2012-13.
Defensive teams usually do well in the playoffs but it is going to be a challenge for this group. I don’t expect them to fade on the defensive side of the ball but players like Julius Randle and RJ Barrett, the top two scorers just don’t have experience in these kinds of situations. For that reason, the Knicks are very lucky to have the Hawks as their opponent. Atlanta does not have much playoff experience either.
The Hawks certainly have talent, and they really took off when they elevated Nate McMillan to the head coach’s chair. That shows you that even though there is a movement to more flow in the game, you still need a coach with sound principles if you want to win. The way they turned around their season has been impressive, as they are 27-11 since McMillan took over.
Trae Young is an exciting young player, and it will be interesting to see how he responds to his first playoff moments. You can say that about a lot of their guys, but he has the biggest role. This team has played very well over the second half, but a quick exit would still not be surprising.
Eastern Conference First Round Series: #4 New York Knicks vs #5 Atlanta Hawks
- Game 1: Sunday, May 23 | Atlanta at New York, 7 ET, TNT
- Game 2: Wednesday, May 26 | Atlanta at New York, 7:30 ET, TNT
- Game 3: Friday, May 28 | New York at Atlanta, 7 ET, ESPN
- Game 4: Sunday, May 30 | New York at Atlanta, 1 ET, ABC
- Game 5: Wednesday, June 2 | Atlanta at New York, TBD, TBD (if necessary)
- Game 6: Friday, June 4 | New York at Atlanta, TBD, TBD (if necessary)
- Game 7: Sunday, June 6 | Atlanta at New York, TBD, TBD (if necessary)
Knicks vs Hawks odds are via FanDuel Sportsbook as of Saturday, May 22 at 3:15 pm ET.
Odds to Win the Series
- Atlanta -115
- New York -105
- Atlanta -1.5 games +154
- New York +1.5 games -192
Series Correct Score Odds
- Atlanta 4-0 +1100
- Atlanta 4-1 +600
- Atlanta 4-2 +490
- Atlanta 4-3 +460
- New York 4-0 +1300
- New York 4-1 +600
- New York 4-2 +440
- New York 4-3 +460
The first thing you notice with the odds is that the Hawks are the betting favorite even though they are the fifth seed and don’t have homecourt advantage. These teams might be pretty close, but I see it the other way. I am wondering if these numbers are somewhat influenced by the Knicks being the much more public team or something beyond true power rated odds.
My best bet for this series would be the simplest one. Just take New York to win the series. You don’t get a nice payoff, but you are not paying a huge premium either. Taking the series winner always gives good hedging possibilities too once the elimination games finally come. I am not expecting either team to dominate, so a stack playing all the six or seven-game series futures is also a nice positive value bet. You won’t hit the jackpot taking them all, but you don’t even have to be right about the side. When a series looks evenly matched, betting it takes on a whole different approach.
Knicks vs Hawks Series Statistical Summary
Knicks vs Hawks Betting Statistics
- New York Knicks: 41-31 SU, 45-26-1 ATS, 32-40 O/U
- Atlanta Hawks: 41-31 SU, 39-32-1 ATS, 35-37 O/U
New York Knicks Season Statistics
107 ppg – 26th
45% FG% – 21st
39% 3PT FG% – 3rd
104 ppg allowed – 1st
Atlanta Hawks Season Statistics
113 ppg – 13th
46% FG% – 17th
37% 3PT FG% – 12th
111 ppg allowed – 12th
April 21: New York 137 – Atlanta 127
February 15: New York 123 – Atlanta 112
January 4: New York 113 – Atlanta 108
Knicks vs Hawks Betting Breakdown
Backing the Knicks: Three Key Factors
Stick with What’s Working – Everyone talks about how the intensity (and defense) ratchets up in the playoffs. The Knicks have been playing that style all season long. That should mean this team is very ready, but at the same time, this team has not been to the playoffs for a long time. New York has to be able to stay true to themselves now that the stakes are much higher. They play tough defense and rebounds well. Those are their core principles. They have to remain who they are.
Sir Julius – Julius Randle has been impressive this season; he literally does everything for the Knicks. Though it might be easier said than done, that means the Hawks know exactly who they need to knock off his game if they are going to win the series. New York is trying to develop Barrett as a secondary scorer and playmaker, but he is not going to be able to carry a team in a playoff game. The Knicks needs Randle and they need to be able to find ways to get him going if he can’t do it on his own. That is going to be partly on coach Tom Thibodeau too.
Offense – New York was the best ATS team in the NBA this season, but the average scoring differential in their games was just +3. They are good at neutralizing offenses, and occasionally they have a strong shooting game and blow a team out. They are deceptive statistically because even though they shoot it well from deep, they do not take a lot of threes. New York prides itself on scoring just enough, but if their offense fades in the playoffs it is going to be tough. New York has a hard time generating easy offense and might run out of steam.
Backing the Hawks: Three Key Factors
Trae Under Control – Trae Young’s scoring is down a little this season, but the team has been winning. Some of that might be a natural maturation process, but it is also the coach, who challenged Trae to play more winning basketball and pick and choose his spots. Getting true quality shots and making sure they come in the flow of the offense is the key for Young and the success of the team. That is how you win in the playoffs. You can’t force it unless the game is on the line. You have to trust your teammates.
Find Some Confidence – When this team was playing well after the switch at head coach they had some swagger. Like so many teams they suffered through some injuries and absences but were able to keep up their winning play. Now that they are in the playoffs they have to keep that up.
This is a series that is predicted to be close until one of these teams shows some separation, if that ever happens. This is a team that can be streaky and seems to ride their confidence, so they have to find a way to get some early in the series. Veteran Lou Williams might be more valuable now than he was during the regular season, especially if they are down early.
Health – The Hawks are a pretty young team, and that is part of the reason their injury challenges are so concerning. Their top three guys, Young, John Collins and DeAndre Hunter have not played a ton together this season. Also, this series starts with two starters Clint Capela and Kevin Huerter, questionable for the opener. For a team that is in the playoffs for the first time in a while, they need to be able to put out their best lineups to succeed. On Sunday, they might be starting a rookie averaging less than 5 ppg at center and Solomon Hill at the two. That is not going to be a winning formula.
Series Prediction: Knicks in Six
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