On Friday, the Atlanta Hawks (23-22) hope to extend their four-game winning streak when they welcome their old rivals, the New York Knicks (25-21). Buzz off birds, says I. Coming off consecutive losses at MSG, the Knicks will try to improve their road record (14-8) with a win against the suddenly feisty Hawks.
Atlanta has a conference record of 16-15 and sits eighth in the Eastern Conference. The Knicks, now tied with the Heat for sixth place, are a tough bunch when not gassed (see: Wednesday’s game). New York ranks third in the NBA for rebounds per game, led by Julius Randle’s 10.7 boards per game.
This marks the third meeting between these two teams this season, and the Knicks dominated in the last one with a 113-89 win. Could be an old-fashion battle tonight. Tip-off’s at 7:30 p.m. EST.
Trae Young (6’1”, 164 lb.) has been sizzling with 23 points in his last 10 games and is averaging 27.2 points and 9.8 assists on the current campaign. Always fond of the long-ball, his three-point percentage for the season is only 32.9%, significantly down from last year’s career-high of 38%, and he shot only 18% in his two previous games against the Knicks. The Balding One should put up little resistance when Jalen Brunson decides to take it to the iron.
In his sixth NBA season, Dejounte Murray (6’4”, 180 lb.) has averaged 20.6 points, 6.1, assists, and 5.5 rebounds, with a field goal percentage of 45.5%. As for three-pointers, he’s been converting them at a 36.4% clip. Last season was the league’s king of steals per game, and he’s still causing trouble, currently ranking sixth in that category. He will keep Quentin Grimes on his toes tonight.
De’Andre Hunter (6’8”, 225 lb.), the fourth pick in the 2019 draft, has contributed well over the last ten games, averaging 16.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 1.5 assists. The 25-year-old has maintained a respectable field goal percentage of 45.3 this season and isn’t shy about letting it fly from beyond the arc, attempting 4.3 three-pointers per game and converting 37% of them. He’ll face RJ Barrett who looked ready for a nap on Wednesday night against the ’Zards.
The Hawks will rely on John Collins (6’9”, 235 lb.) and his 13.3 points and 7.8 rebounds to neutralize the raging Randle. Collins’ three-ball has significantly dropped off this season, down from 36% last season to 24% on the same amount of attempts (3.2). In 13 total games against New York, Collins averaged 16.2 points and 8.2 rebounds. Probably safe to assume the same output from him tonight.
Mitchell Robinson is out with a sprained thumb. In his stead, expect Isaiah Hartenstein and Jericho Sims to play a heavier minutes load than usual. Atlanta will send Clint Capela (6’10”, 240 lb.) to anchor the paint. Playing in his ninth season, the 28-year-old C.C. leads the team in boards with 11.5, and blocks with 1.4 per game, and adds about 12 points in his 27 minutes per night.
The Knicks have a 70-109 record in Atlanta. Ouch. The Hawks have shown some teeth on defense lately, achieving the league’s eighth-best defensive rating over nine games in January. (New York lurks behind them in ninth for the month.) Their season average from deep is 34%, but Atlanta has sunk the long ball at a rate of almost 39% since New Year’s Eve. A tussle with a fully healthy, surging Hawks squad will test New York’s depth and tenacity, which makes this one a toss-up. With a fat homer’s thumb on the scale, let’s predict they beat those buzzards at the buzzer by one.
State Farm Arena. Atlanta, GA. Friday. 7:30 p.m. ET. Give the Hawks hell, Knicks!