Atlanta Hawks
41-31
+105
-125
New York Knicks
41-31
Sun, May 23 - 7:00p ET   |   TNT   |   Madison Square Garden
By Landon Smith

Atlanta Hawks vs New York Knicks NBA Basketball Preview and Free Picks 05/23/21

Atlanta Hawks Will Try to Get a Win When Meet New York Knicks from Madison Square Garden - NBA Basketball Match Preview and Prediction Game on Sunday, May 23, 2021.

Preview, Prediction and Picks

Since the Brooklyn Nets tripled the super-team concept to defending champion Los Angeles Lakers poised to win an inning game to advance to the playoffs, unpredictability has not been lacking throughout the shortened 72-hour regular season.

But the biggest surprise of all could be summed up in these 17 words: The New York Knicks and Atlanta Hawks meet in an Eastern Conference playoff series.

The Knicks will appear in the playoffs for the first time since 2013 on Sunday night, when they are expected to host the Hawks in the opening game of the best-of-seven first-round series.

The fourth-seeded Knicks and fifth-seeded Hawks each finished 41-31, but New York claimed the top seed and the field advantage by going 3-0 against Atlanta.

The training changes have helped speed up extensive rebuilds for both teams. Last July, the Knicks hired the pragmatic Tom Thibodeau, a revolutionary artist who might have accomplished his most impressive feat to date by overseeing a rapid cultural change in New York City.

Thibodeau led the Chicago Bulls, who only came out of the first round once since finishing their second hat-trick in 1998, to the conference semifinals or beyond three times in five years before ending the 13-year drought. playoff winner for the Minnesota Timberwolves in his second. season at the helm in 2017-18.

The Knicks were 190 games below 0.500 in the previous seven seasons, a period in which they ranked in the bottom half of the NBA in points allowed per game five times. But under Thibodeau this season, New York has allowed a minimum of 104.7 points per game and finished the season with 16 wins in its last 20 games.

Of course, for the famous Thibodeau, the work has only just begun.

The defensive-minded Knicks will get the kind of test Thibodeau enjoys against the Hawks, who finished 11th in the NBA with an average of 113.7 points per game, but were the only team with nine players averaging two to two figures.

The Hawks, who last made the playoffs in 2017 and had 85 games under 0.500 in the previous three seasons, didn't start climbing until head coach Lloyd Pierce was fired on March 1 and replaced on an interim basis. by assistant coach Nate McMillan. who has made the playoffs nine times in 14 full seasons as a head coach with the Seattle SuperSonics, Portland Trail Blazers and Indiana Pacers.

Atlanta, which was 14-20 and 11 in the East with Pierce, won its first eight games with McMillan and surpassed 100 points 34 times in the last 38 games.

 

WINNER: New York Knicks @ -1.5

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By Landon Smith, on 7:00p ET