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Game Preview: Knicks at Hawks- 01/15/22

New York visits Atlanta, where the Hawks have lost nine straight.

Atlanta Hawks v New York Knicks Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

On Saturday, the New York Knicks (21-21) visit the Atlanta Hawks (17-24) for their third of four contests this season. When they met on Christmas Day, the Knicks buried the Birds 101-87. Each Knicks starter had a positive +/-, the team attempted 50 threes (made 20), and their largest lead was 21 points.

That was a satisfying win. In his fourth game back after nine DNPs, Kemba Walker logged a triple-double of 10 points, 10 rebounds, and 12 assists in 40 minutes. Also of note, Cam Reddish of the Hawks collected 10 points and six rebounds in 34 minutes, shot 4-for-15 from the field and 1-for-8 from deep and finished with a -18.

For those who dwell under rocks, the Cam stats are noteworthy because the Hawks have traded Reddish to the Knicks for Kevin Knox II (bye, Kev) and a protected Charlotte pick. The tenth selection in the 2019 draft hurt his ankle recently and won’t play tonight. Like you, I presume, I’m excited to see the blue and orange on Reddish, who was RJ Barrett’s teammate at Duke and Immanuel Quickley’s roommate while on the 2017 FIBA Under-19 Basketball World Cup (h/t Knicks Film School).

Tonight the Hawks will be playing the second of a back-to-back, having lost to the Heat 124-118 yesterday. They have dropped four games in a row and nine straight at home. Will they make it ten? You betcha. Tip-off’s at 7:30 PM, peach pickers.

PROJECTED STARTERS

Trae Young ranks fourth in the league with 27.7 points per game and third in assists per game, averaging 9.4. The 23-year old point guard plays shoddy defense, however, and is fifth in the league with four turnovers per game. He’s expected to square off against Alec Burks with Kemba Walker still recovering from knee issues.

Q’s for the comments: Did a jaded Thibs intentionally break Kemba by playing him six games in a row? Or is Kemba being preserved in order to pass the physical for an upcoming trade? Or is he now a six-games-on, nine-games-off player?

Shooting guard Bogdan Bogdanović has averaged 12.2 points and 2.5 assists this season. The 6’6”, 220 lbs Serbian shot 44% from deep last year (7.6 attempts) but only 36% this season (6.3 attempts). He’s a squishy defender, too, so Evan Fournier should launch plenty of rockets tonight.

De’Andre Hunter is back in action after a wrist injury. Hunter has averaged 11.2 points and 2.6 rebounds in 12 games this season and has a 117 defensive rating. RJ Barrett has averaged 25.4 points in his last five games, and his resurgence should continue tonight.

Star-J seems pleased to reunite with his fellow Blue Devil:

John Collins ranks sixth in the league with 44% 3-pt field gold percentage and seventh with a 126.5 offensive rating. The 24-year old Wake Forest product has averaged 17.4 points and eight rebounds per game this year. In 11 games against Collins, Julius Randle has averaged 26.7 points and 10.9 boards, upticks from his career averages of 17.5 and 9.3.

Gorgui Dieng is a 6’10”, 252lb, eight-year veteran who has weaved from Minnesota to Atlanta. The Senegalese Sniper has averaged 3.6 points and 3.2 rebounds in a reserve role this season, but started last night in Miami with Clint Capela out (ankle). Either he or Onyeka Okongwu will start tonight. Expect Mitchell Robinson to be Pac-Man personified in this one. Gobble, Mitch, gobble.

PREDICTIONS

The Hawks have not fulfilled their preseason expectations. They’re twelfth in the Eastern Conference, have the twenty-eighth ranked defense, and lead the league in turnovers with 12.3 per game. With ideal conditions for RJ and Mitch to excel tonight, I predict New York wins by double-digits to give Atlanta ten straight losses at home. Ouch, season ticket holders.

It would have been fun to see Reddish take on his old squad tonight, but he is nursing that ankle, and surely Thibs will indoctrinate him with a few grueling practices before granting him floor time. Here is coach discussing Cam on Friday.

State Farm Arena. Saturday. 7:30 PM. Viva Knicks!