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Game Preview: Knicks vs. Hawks- 12/25/21

Ho Ho Hawks.

New York Knicks v Atlanta Hawks - Game Four Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

This Christmas, the Atlanta Hawks (15-16) visit the New York Knicks (14-18) to kick off a slate of NBA games. The two teams last tangled on November 27, a game the Knicks won 99-90, despite a 33-point, seven assist game by Trae “Zorro Stash” Young and 22 rebounds by Clint Capela. Starting point guard Alec Burks was your star of the game with 23 points, and Evan Fournier added 20 (7-for-13 from the field, 4-for-6 from deep).

This time around, the Hawks are missing a slew of guys, including Young, Clint Capela, Cam Reddish (probable), Delon Wright (probable), Danilo Gallinari, Solomon Hill, De’Andre Hunter, Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot, and Sweet Lou Williams.

Will the Knicks rise victoriously over a team reduced to John Collins and (does double-take) Lance Stephenson?

Damn right, they will—or certain players better prepare to change their zip codes in 2022. Your Christmas present arrives at noon, Ebenezers.

PROJECTED STARTERS

Power forward John Collins has averaged 17.6 points and eight boards this season. His 65% true shooting puts him in the 93 percentile, and he’s a solid rim defender/offensive rebounder. He can score from spot-up, the post, or as the roll-man. Q for the comments: is he worth his five-year, $125.0 million deal?

Let’s hope Julius Randle is rejuvenated after holiday time with Kendra and the kids, and Santa brought some improved shooting. Randle’s been a woeful 0.7-for-6 (11%) from deep in the last three games.

Guard Bogdan Bogdanović is a spot-up shooter who has averaged 11 points and 2.4 assists in 28 minutes per game. The 29-year old Serbian has regressed a shade from last year’s career-high stats. He will likely play point position with all other lead guards out.

Kemba Walker will seek to pick up where he left off, dropping 44 on the Washington Wizards. Walker should meet little resistance, with Bogdan averaging a 115 defensive rating.

With Capela out and Onyeka Okongwu out, watch for Gorgui Dieng, who has averaged three rebounds and three points in eight minutes per game. It’s all-hands-on-deck days, folks.

Who else will play for Atlanta? Hell if I know. Rookie forward Jalen Johnson might draw his first start of the season. Journeyman Stephenson is with the club on a 10-day contract and ready to show he’s still got life in his legs—he might even start in one of the guard spots.

For the Knicks, it sounds like RJ Barrett is ready to play, and Immanuel Quickley has rejoined the team:

PREDICTIONS

It’s a weird time in the NBA with so many players in health and safety protocols. If the Knicks hope to reach the postseason, they need to take advantage of weakened opponents. They blew a shot versus the Wizards on Thursday, 124-117. They can’t miss this one against Collins and a few pairs of sneakers.

Madison Square Garden. Christmas Day. Noon. Go Knickerbockers!