The Hawks have won their last two games since returning east from an early season road trip out West. They'll look to make it three in a row when the struggling Knicks come to town in Atlanta's first nationally televised game of the year. With New York comes familiar face Mike Woodson, who many believe could be on the hot seat if New York doesn't turn things around soon. Seth Rosenthal examines the Hawks' chances of putting Woodson on an even hotter seat.
Question (Daniel Christian): The Knicks came into this season with the public perception of an Eastern Conference contender. Whether that perception is/was fair or not is up for debate, especially after New York's early struggles this year. What's been the problem so far for the Knicks and how do they right the ship?
Answer (Seth Rosenthal): Oh, so many problems. It began with Mike Woodson going away from the two-point guard, shooter-flush lineups that so behooved the Knicks last season. It continued with Tyson Chandler suffering an injury that will put him out at least a month. Carmelo Anthony being off, Andrea Bargnani struggling to fit, and an excess of turnovers and blown open looks haven't helped, either. It's been a messy six games.
Q: Given the Hawks' early defensive woes, where do you think the Knicks offense can have the most success on Wednesday night? Why?
A: Uh...well...I wouldn't *count* on the Knicks to thrive anywhere at this point. That said, the Knicks employ a number of guys who hypothetically should be able to punish Atlanta for doubling Carmelo Anthony, which...I think they'll do? Hard to know how they'll match up in the post-Josh Smith era. One hopes guys like J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert, and Andrea Bargnani can come through when Melo kicks out of the post, but one can't be sure. And hey, if the Knicks can force turnovers they can get stuff done in transition. Just not sure that'll happen.
Q: What match up do you think will be most important with respect to the final outcome of the game?
A: I'll be looking hardest at how the Knicks defend Jeff Teague. Raymond Felton is nursing a hamstring issue and wasn't a very good defender to begin with, so he'll have some trouble catching that li'l speedster off the dribble. The key, then, is whether the Knicks can contain him without totally ruining their defensive sets. Given the way New York's been switching under Woodson (y'all are familiar with that one), Teague could enjoy lots of dribbles with Bargnani guarding him.
Q: James Dolan recently guaranteed the Knicks would win their next game. Well, that game is against the Hawks. Do you agree with Dolan's guarantee?
A: Yeah, Dolan's guarantee will make this one a little weird. The Knicks also supposedly had a very tough practice this week. I'm going to take the Knicks, though I fear it would take more than an owner guarantee and a tough practice to cure what ails this team.
My Take: New York seems like a little bit of a mess to start the year. Their "big" offseason addition doesn't really fit, Tyson Chandler is injured, no one is shooting well, and there was a definite sense of pessimism surrounding this team by media pundits (see: Simmons, Bill) before the season even started. Maybe the writing was on the wall, or maybe it's way too soon to judge anything.
Regardless, the Knicks haven't been succeeding as of late. And that's what really matters, at least as it pertains to this game. James Dolan foolishly guaranteed a Knicks win. Whether they win or not, you're setting yourself up for failure. And while this definitely seems like a game the Hawks would drop just because they're the Hawks (like the Denver game last week), it also doesn't feel right to allow myself to support and/or confirm Dolan's sweeping declaration. I'm probably harping on this too much, but it irks me, so I'll go with Atlanta tonight.
Don't get me wrong though, there are real basketball reasons to believe the Hawks will come away victorious. I'm not sure how New York will defend the interior without Tyson Chandler. Who is their next bet? Kenyon Martin? Bargnani?! Horford might just have a big game. Millsap too. As Seth mentioned, Felton is slightly injured, but he wasn't going to stop Teague anyway.
Outside of Melo, the Knicks don't really have anyone the Hawks *should* have trouble defending. Perimeter rotations and help defense will be key, because Anthony will be receiving the most defensive attention.