The New York Knicks and Atlanta Hawks weren’t expected to make the playoffs this season, but they both came in and will meet in the first round. The first game of their series is Sunday night as postseason basketball returns to Madison Square Garden for the first time since 2013.
Led by Most Improved Player finalist Julius Randle and one of the league’s best defenses, the Knicks enjoyed their best season in nearly a decade to claim fourth place in the East. As for the Hawks, their off-season acquisitions and mid-season change of coach paid off with a second-half push to grab the fifth seed in the East.
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Before the first game, here’s everything you need to know:
(4) New York Knicks vs. (5) Atlanta Hawks
- Dated: Sunday May 23 | Time: 8 p.m. ET
- Location: Madison Square Garden – New York, New York
- TV: TNT | Direct: TNT
- Chances: NY -110; ATL -110 | OR: 213 (via William Hill Sportsbook)
Featured Game | New York Knicks vs. Atlanta Hawks
Knicks: At the start of the season, the Knicks were tied for the third lowest total winning projection for punters in Las Vegas. But instead of an eighth straight trip to the lottery, they nearly doubled that projection of 22.5 wins and finished fourth in the East. New coach Tom Thibodeau helped build an elite defense, Julius Randle became an All-NBA caliber player and they had their best season in almost a decade. In order to continue this run, they’ll need Randle and the defense to rally as they look to shut down a team of high powered Hawks.
Falcons: Injured and languishing at 14-20 before the All-Star break, the Hawks decided to fire coach Loyd Pierce and replace him with Nate McMillan. After that point, they went 27-11 to close the season, and the turnaround was enough to get them into the playoffs for the first time since 2017. A tough, defensive Knicks team won’t be an easy game, especially for a young team making their first round of the playoffs, but Trae Young and Co. has a real shot at qualifying for the second round.
Vegas sees this as a draw. In this case, let’s put ourselves on the side of the Knicks since they are at home and have the best player of the series in Julius Randle. Picks: Knicks +1